Manchester United played out a goalless draw away at Sevilla in the first leg of their Champions League first knockout round tie on Wednesday. It was a predictably cagey performance from José Mourinho’s men, who created very little in the way of goalscoring chances, notwithstanding the utility of away goals in continental competition. They’ll have to be better in the second leg showdown at Old Trafford in three weeks time.
Sevilla started brightly, their slick passing game immediately forcing United onto the back foot. But for all of their early possession, the hosts were restricted to one attempt on goal: a long-range Luis Muriel drive that forced David de Gea into a relatively simple save.
Notwithstanding an early injury to Ander Herrera, who was swiftly replaced by Paul Pogba, United seemed to be gradually growing in confidence. Their best chance of the opening half was a gilt-edged one, though Romelu Lukaku ballooned a beautiful Alexis Sánchez chip clean over the crossbar from close range.
Before long however, Sevilla were back on top, and the supporters packed into the Ramón Sánchez Pizjuán grew ever more excitable. By halftime, only de Gea’s brilliance had kept the scores level, with two remarkable saves keeping out headers from Steven Nzonzi and Muriel in quick succession.
Mourinho stomped off down the tunnel as the whistle sounded, with his side having failed to convince. He resisted the temptation to tinker over the interval, though United subsequently showed little sign of improvement. Sevilla bossed proceedings into the second half, with all United hands on deck to soak up the pressure.
Notwithstanding the constant threat posed by the twinkle-toed Joaquín Correa, United did well to neutralise the hosts’ attacking threat, though offered little of their own. With a quarter-hour left on the clock, Mourinho tried to shake things up with the introduction of Marcus Rashford and Anthony Martial in place of Sánchez and Juan Mata, though without much effect. If United are to win this tie, they’ll have to do so without the help of an away goal.