Over 180 minutes of football against Sevilla, Manchester United showed next to no attacking ambition, and were made to pay the price. The visitors shocked José Mourinho’s team, winning 2-1 at Old Trafford thanks to a late brace from super sub Wissam Ben Yedder.
It was a subdued start to the match from the home side, and Mourinho’s team actually ceded the majority of possession to Sevilla in the opening twenty minutes. Despite the must-win scenario, United’s early play lacked both intensity and cohesiveness. It may have been the first time that Nemanja Matić, Marouane Fellaini, and Jesse Lingard played together in a midfield triangle - and it showed.
It wasn’t until the 38th minute that United forced a save of note out of Sergio Rico, as the Sevilla ‘keeper kept out a sharp shot from Fellaini at the near post. As is usually the case when the big Belgian is on the pitch to start a game, any time a player on the ball failed to find a better idea, “lump it up top to Fellaini” became the next option.
Whatever Mourinho’s tactical plan was - unless it was “bore us all to tears” - it decidedly did not work in the opening 45 minutes.
Two minutes after the restart, Sevilla almost took a shock lead. Joaquin Correa found himself clean through on goal with only David De Gea to beat, but a slightly awkward first touch gave Eric Bailly just enough room to execute what was surely a goal-saving tackle.
Mourinho then made his first tactical change of the evening, sending Lingard out onto the right side of the attack. The move nearly paid immediate dividends. After Romelu Lukaku’s hard work, Lingard’s low shot was well saved by Rico at full stretch.
Just before the hour mark, the United team got the jolt of creativity - on paper, at least - that it desperately needed, as Mourinho sent on Paul Pogba in place of Fellaini. Pogba’s introduction did little to change the pointlessness of proceedings however, and the Reds continued to be dire in possession.
At the 74th minute mark, Sevilla took the lead. After United yet again gave the ball away cheaply, Pablo Sarabia split the center backs with a ball into substitute Wissam Ben Yedder. Only just on the field, the striker finished clinically just inside the post to leave United needing two goals to progress.
Mourinho responded by sending on Juan Mata and Anthony Martial, but Sevilla weren’t done yet.
Just minutes after his opener, Ben Yedder struck again. United switched off completely at a corner, and Ben Yedder beat Ashley Young at the back post. De Gea clawed the initial header out, but the rebound floated in over the line, and the goal was given by the goal-line technology system. In the space of five minutes, Sevilla had left Manchester United’s season in tatters.
The Reds weren’t dead yet though, and in the 84th minute, it was Sevilla’s turn to fall asleep at a corner. The hard-working Lukaku got in front of his marker to redirect Marcus Rashford’s into the back of the net and pull a goal back.
It was too little too late though, and Sevilla held on for the win as boos rang out at Old Trafford at full time. Neither manager nor players were up to the task over the two legs, and in the end the Spanish side were deserving winners.