Manchester United should have put away Sevilla at the start of the second half on Sunday night in Cologne. But their failure to take advantage of the multiple chances they created came back to haunt them at the end.
Sevilla came from a goal down to beat Manchester United 2-1 in the first semi-final of the Europa League and it left Ole Gunnar Solskjaer to ponder on what might have been in another semi-final defeat, a third, this season.
Bruno Fernandes scored from a penalty in the first half to give Manchester United the lead but Sevilla were on equal terms before half-time through a goal from former Liverpool winger, Suso.
Manchester United created a plethora of chances in the first 15 minutes of the second half but lacked the finishing. Luuk de Jong made them pay when he scored in the 78th minute to win the game for the Spanish side.
#1 Sevilla were more clinical in front of goal
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s side had seven shots on target but scored only one. Sevilla had just three shots at David de Gea’s goal and managed to score two.
The Spanish side weathered the Manchester United storm at the start of the second half partly due to brilliant goalkeeping from Bono and also because the Manchester United strikers lacked the cutting edge on the night.
Manchester United should have been out of sight by the hour mark due to the number of chances they created but their profligacy in front of goal keep Sevilla in the same.
The Spanish side created just one opportunity in the second half and scored from that to knock the Premier League giants out of the competition.
#2 Individual errors cost Manchester United a place in the Europa League final
Manchester United’s defensive performances this season have improved but they remain prone to making individual mistakes that have hurt them more often than not.
Fred missed his runner in the first half that led to the cross from which Suso equalised for Sevilla. Both Brandon Williams and Harry Maguire could have done better to deal with the driven ball into the penalty box.
Luuk de Jong’s winner was a result of multiple errors. Brandon Williams should have closed the cross down, Aaron Wan-Bissaka didn’t go with De Jong inside the danger area and eventually, Victor Lindelof didn’t deal with the cross coming in.
Bruno Fernandes chastised the Swede after the goal for losing focus at a crucial stage.
At the other end, Marcus Rashford, Anthony Martial and Mason Greenwood missed crucial opportunities to score. While Sevilla’s Bono made some very good saves, none of them can be termed as brilliant, which points towards errors in the Manchester United strikers’ finishing.
#3 The officiating was poor for a game of this magnitude
The German referee, Felix Brych, along with VAR had a poor game in Cologne on Sunday night.
Diego Carlos should have at least seen a yellow card for his challenge on Marcus Rashford that led to the penalty. The defender was late and the challenge could have seriously injured the Manchester United striker.
But he was never cautioned. The Brazilian was later booked for another bad challenge on Anthony in the first-half itself. There was a legitimate chance he could have been sent off even before the break.
The build-up to Sevilla’s first goal came from a throw-in, which should have been Manchester United’s. The ball came off Jules Kounde’s head before going out of play but the throw-in was awarded to Sevilla.
Apparently, it was checked by VAR later but the goal still stood. It was baffling both for the viewers watching and the Manchester United players on the pitch.
Brych was also guilty of breaking up play throughout the game and a lot of the 50-50 decisions went against Manchester United. It is safe to say he is unlikely to be the referee in the final after last night’s performance.
#4 Sevilla showed their experience on the big stage
The Sevilla side were three years older than the average age of Manchester United last night and it showed on the pitch. Julen Lopetegui’s side were more experienced and cuter than Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s Red Devils.
Sevilla drew fouls out of Manchester United, got Brandon Williams yellow-carded early and their antics on the pitch visibly frustrated their younger opponents on the pitch in Cologne.
Manchester United did well to not get sucked into their antics and get a player sent off but it was clear that Sevilla’s antics were getting to them.
The game often threatened to boil over into a physical scrap and it seemed that it might not finish with 22 men left on the pitch.
#5 Third trophyless season in a row for Manchester United
The Europa League in 2017 was the last trophy Manchester United won. Since then, they lost an FA Cup final in 2018 and lost three semi-finals this year. The last time Manchester United didn’t win a trophy for three years was between 1987 and 1989.
Getting into the top four again and closing the gap with Liverpool and Manchester City will be Manchester United’s goal next season. But Ole Gunnar Solskjaer will also be aware that he needs to win a trophy as well as he doesn’t want the albatross of another trophyless season.
The longer the run stretches the more pressure Manchester United plays will feel to break the duck. It seems unlikely that they will be legitimate contenders for the Premier League or the Champions League next season.
Expect Ole Gunnar Solskjaer to aim for the League Cup and the FA Cup to end the barren run.
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