This elimination of Manchester United from the Champions League was deserved. José Mourinho’s team barely raised a whimper against a Sevilla side who finally took their chances through the substitute Wissam Ben Yedder.
The best context to place this in is Vincenzo Montella’s team are fifth in La Liga with a goal difference of minus six and had won only two of their six Champions League group games.
Mourinho’s failure to guide his team into the quarter-finals is further compounded by how the maligned David Moyes did take United through to the last eight four years ago.
Ben Yedder had only just been introduced yet the space the Frenchman luxuriated in for the opener meant the forward could hardly fail to score from Pablo Sarabia’s pass. His second was as scruffy as United were slipshod as he beat Ashley Young to a header which was touched on to the bar by David de Gea, dropped down and after one bounce spun over the goalline.
Romelu Lukaku grabbed one back minutes from time but this dismal defeat that had Old Trafford emptying before the final whistle means United can realistically now claim only the FA Cup.
Mourinho made two changes from Saturday’s win against Liverpool, replacing Scott McTominay with Marouane Fellaini and Juan Mata with Jesse Lingard. Following a thigh injury Paul Pogba was kept on the bench and whether he was fit to start was moot and his absence would prove telling as Fellaini and Nemanja Matic never controlled the contest.
Vincenzo Montella changed two players, too. The cup-tied Miguel Layun plus Nolito, who was a reserve, were excluded for Simon Kjaer and Joaquin Correa.
At the start United’s tempo was good, though this also suited their opponents. After pressing Mourinho’s men Éver Banega delivered a first corner for Joaquin Correa to glance a header that just cleared De Gea’s bar.
Further uncertainty ensued when Antonio Valencia hesitated, mishit a punt out of his area and Franco Vázquez blasted wide. Later Eric Bailly gave the ball to Vázquez, Luis Muriel pulled the trigger and United were relieved when his radar proved awry.
Already this had the feel of a long night for Mourinho’s men. An inability to slow the contest down and retain possession was the issue. An illustration came when Young hit a hopeful 40-yard pass to Lukaku that went to Clement Lenglet when a short ball to a nearby team-mate was required. The contest was bypassing United’s midfield in the hope that Fellaini or Lukaku could make something happen from a hail Mary dropping on them from the Manchester sky.
Any trickery there was came from the Spanish side. Marcus Rashford was the next to cede the ball cheaply and in a trice United were turned and Muriel was beating De Gea with a shot that rolled wide of his left post. When Rashford did discover subtlety with a chip into the onrushing Lukaku, the No 9’s touch was non-existent. This showed how uneven United were. As the first half neared the break it had been akin to a rough and tumble Championship affair of little rhythm.
United were missing Pogba and it was uncertain if he would be introduced at some point to try to turn the tie.
Fellaini then drilled a left-foot effort that warmed Sergio Rico’s fingers: it was about as good as United’s first half got.
The truth was that if Sevilla had taken their opportunities United would have been in serious strife as the second half kicked off. As it was they stared down the barrel because of the away goal rule, knowing if Montella’s team scored they would need two, which United had not managed against Spanish opposition since 2003, home or away in the competition.
Yet, the rot continued. Correa produced a scare when he was found in space in front of De Gea. As he went to shoot Bailly swooped and made a crucial tackle to clear the danger.
United’s problem was as obvious as their inability to solve it: a lack of composure despite Mourinho having the interval to put this right.
Lingard did manage a shot on target, which Rico turned away for a corner. From this Rashford eventually whacked the ball across goal and found no one. Now came a rare flash of Alexis Sánchez brilliance as he skipped away from three black shirts and curved the ball to Rashford but the forward could only smack the ball into the stands. Mourinho had seen enough and on the hour sent on Pogba for Fellaini.
Disaster was about to strike via Sevilla’s substitution, bringing on Ben Yedder, who has a knack of scoring against English sides. He was Sevilla’s saviour in the autumn, scoring three against Liverpool across their two drawn group games.
After the opener Mourinho threw on Mata for Valencia and Anthony Martial for Lingard but Ben Yedder headed a second – his eighth for the season in Europe – and United were heading out. For Mourinho the inquisition now begins.
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