For the first time in their history, Sevilla reached the quarterfinals of the UEFA Champions League, scripting a seismic upset as they stunned Manchester United 2-1 at Old Trafford to progress 2-1 on aggregate, with substitute Wissam Ben Yedder proving to be the hero with a fine second-half brace to send the fancied Red Devils packing.
After the first leg in Seville had ended in a 0-0 draw, Jose Mourinho’s men were the favourites to make the last-eight but their big stars didn’t show up for a game their own manager had called “the biggest tie of the season”.
The visitors were on the front foot from the off, while United seemed content to soak up the pressure and at half-time, the tie remained scoreless.
It took an inspired substitution from Vincenzo Montella to turn the match on its head, with Ben Yedder coming off the bench to score an excellent opener in the 74th minute and a scrappy second four minutes later.
With little over 10 minutes left in the tie, United needed three goals to complete an unlikely comeback and while Romelu Lukaku reduced the deficit with a close-range finish six minutes from time, Sevilla held on for a memorable win.
The Statesman has picked the five major talking points from an enthralling encounter at Old Trafford for you:
Liverpool game seems to have been a false dawn
After United’s blistering start against Liverpool on the weekend, their fans had (perhaps naively) got pumped as they felt their beloved Red Devils would turn on the style against an under-confident Sevilla side.
It wasn’t to be as Jose Mourinho’s men reverted to type against the Spanish outfit, looking very much like the away side despite playing at the vaunted Theatre of Dreams.
Sevilla dominated the possession stats throughout and always looked more likely to open the scoring.
After the largely one-way traffic in the first leg, perhaps it shouldn’t come as a surprise, but Sevilla are no Liverpool or Manchester City and surely on their own turf, the Premier League giants should have been able to take the game to them?
Wissam Ben Yedder, not Paul Pogba, biggest omission on the night
Paul Pobga’s presence on the bench sparked a few eyebrows, but considering the Frenchman’s recent injury, Mourinho’s caution was warranted.
What wasn’t, however, was Vincenzo Montella’s perplexing decision to keep top scorer Wissam Ben Yedder out of the starting XI.
Luis Muriel, as was in the case in the first leg, got the nod in stead of the Frenchman, but why didn’t he start?
And to reinforce the point, Ben Yedder scored within minutes of his introduction. And scored again to ensure his side’s progression to cap off arguably his finest-ever cameo.
Muriel, in stark contrast, was on the pitch for over three-quarters of the tie but hardly did anything of note except lose possession umpteen times.
While Montella will get the plaudits for his inspired substitution, Sevillistas will demand Ben Yedder starts from the get-go next time they take to the pitch and after Tuesday’s display, the French striker surely deserves his spot.
Alexis Sanchez…flop of the season?
After Jose Mourinho’s strange comments in the build-up to the Liverpool clash, one had to feel for Alexis Sanchez.
The Portuguese tactician effectively said, “Don’t expect anything from the Chilean as he arrived mid-season. Next season you’ll get to see the Sanchez of old,”.
Now, with the monstrous wages the former Arsenal winger rakes in, that seems a bit strange and United fans are rightly miffed with their No.7.
Against Sevilla, he was awful.
No shot on target, no cross to find a teammate in a good position and no mazy dribble to get the crowd of their feet.
If he’s so off his game, why not start the likes of Anthony Martial and Jesse Lingard in his stead?
In a bid to ‘boost’ his confidence, United are stuttering in attack and clearly they paid the price in Europe to exit the elite competition at a relatively-early stage.
Colossal failure for big-spenders Manchester United
After all the flak that came Paris Saint-Germain’s way following their loss at the hands of Real Madrid, one has to wonder what kind of backlash the Red Devils will suffer from in the days to come.
For Sevilla, without any disrespect meant, are no Real Madrid and while United haven’t quite spent as much as PSG, their wage bill is right up there alongside the rest of Europe’s elite.
So while derby rivals Manchester City make merry enroute to the Premier League title, what does Mourinho have to show for it?
Yes, his squad have let him down, but the manager has to take the blame too.
With a carte blanche afforded to him by the management, the Portuguese, in his second season, will have at maximum, the FA Cup and second place finish in the Premier League to show for it.
Not the best return on the significant investment United made in the summer (not to mention the previous one as well) and you can bet Mourinho will be facing the music.
Romelu Lukaku lone bright spot for insipid Red Devils
Romelu Lukaku’s burst into form of late, bullying defenders with his powerful presence and keeps popping up with vital goals or deft assists but sadly this time round he was let down by his teammates.
The Belgian was everywhere, a constant menace for Sevilla’s backline, and his hunger to make an impact was there for all to see.
Even at 0-2 down, Lukaku didn’t give up and desperately gave it his all to get one back.
He got the consolation but had the likes of Marcus Rashford, Alexis Sanchez and Paul Pogba been on their game, he probably would have had a few more.
Sanchez, as mentioned earlier, put in an abject shift while Rashford seemed like he was still feeling the after-effects of the win over Liverpool.
And while Pogba didn’t have as much time on the pitch as his teammates, the Frenchman was brought on by his manger to be a game-changer but sadly, he was anything but as his passing was off and there was far too little of the powerful running he’s renown for.
Time for the players to get back to the drawing board and fix things, for there’s plenty that’s going wrong for the.