When Manchester United won the Europa League title under Jose Mourinho last year, the people at the club saw it as an interesting opportunity to do well in the UEFA Champions League. The manager invested heavily in striker Romelu Lukaku in the summer window and then rescued Alexis Sanchez in the winter window when he replaced Henrikh Mkhitaryan.
The Red Devils have done well in the league so far, but are some points off the top spot and will probably finish the season in the Champions League spots as it’s obvious that they have to in order to compete in the elite competition yet again. They had an easy run in the group stages of the tournament as they topped a group that had mediocre teams that weren’t in the same bracket.
In their latest encounter that was in the last-16 stage of the tournament, they played Sevilla and were clear favorites to go through. The first leg had interesting moments about it, but ended 0-0 at the Estadio Ramon Sanchez Pizjuan Stadium as it was a dull affair between the two clubs. The English team weren’t at their best but were put to test by a resilient Sevilla team that were interested in fighting it out at Old Trafford.
Things were no different in the multi-purpose stadium, as the game began on a dull note with both teams playing a compact game at first, but at a later point of time they started playing in an expansive manner. United, in particular, had made a couple of blunders in their selection as they picked Marouane Fellaini and Jesse Lingard in central midfield despite having Matic behind them as an anchorman.
That was awful on part of the manager as it allowed Sevilla to dominate in midfield where they had Ever Banega and the sturdy Steven N’Zonzi to counter what United had to offer. The game went on at the same pace until Wissam Ben Yedder was subbed in as a replacement for Luis Muriel. The forward had an instant impact as he scored two quick goals and made his team proud and this angered Mourinho to a very large extent as it was a home game, with no time to make amends.
Can’t play manager here, but Mourinho got it wrong when he played Marcus Rashford on the right wing. Although the forward can play there, he is mostly comfortable playing on the left or in the centre but was often found missing as he was exposed by the Sevilla defense who were compact and wanted him to track back on occasion.
The defenders too didn’t do their bit as they were caught wanting repeatedly and the keeper didn’t have sufficient cover when the men in front of them erred. All in all, it was an off-day for United and they can’t afford to do the same in the Premier League, so it’s possible to say that they have their work cut out in the coming few weeks in order to get the silver medal at the end of the day.
Alexis Sanchez too didn’t play well against familiar opposition; the consolation goal from Lukaku wasn’t good enough to give them much of a fighting chance. It can be said that they lost it in midfield and have let their fans down by losing to a, with no disrespect, Europa League level club and will have some making up to do in the Premier League.