“I’m tired Robbie”
With momentum swinging in Manchester United’s favour with their 2-1 victory against Liverpool at the weekend, fans would have been hoping their winning ways continued against Sevilla. Contrastingly, their opponents came into the game off the back of a 2-0 loss to Valencia. A win for United would see them get into the Quarter Finals for only the second time in seven years.
Mourinho named a similar side to the one that beat Liverpool with a couple of small changes. De Gea starts in goal with the same back four of Valencia, Bailly, Smalling, and Young. Fellaini came into the side to replace the in-form McTominay to partner Matic in a two-man midfield. Lingard joined Rashford and Sánchez in the attacking positions with Lukaku once again being the lone striker.
The second leg began with a much lower intensity than the first, and it was clear that this would be a slow-burning game without the frenetic energy of the first. That didn’t stop Banega from getting a yellow card after just five minutes though for cynically hacking down his dispossessor.
Manchester United gave Sevilla a little more space that Mourinho would perhaps have liked in the opening quarter-hour but every attacking opportunity the fifth-placed Spanish side got they fired well over the bar. Vázquez was dominant in the midfield area but his teammates let him down in finding passes in the United final third leading to their possession being lost through unforced errors.
The Red Devils were not much better on the ball either and as the minutes passed, fans of both sides became increasingly restless. Neither side played like a place in the Quarter Finals of the Champion’s League was up for grabs. The tempo of both sides was incredibly slow — it was simply bizarre. It wasn’t like the teams were playing with stabilisers on, it was like they hadn’t taken the bike out of the box and assembled it in the first place.
When the first proper chance came knocking, the creator and eventual player taking the shot was none other than Marouane Fellaini. The Belgian opted for power rather than placement and the shot was comfortably parried away from goal from goalkeeper Rico. The most frustrating part of the opportunity was that it was the first real time United went forward with any sort of intent. If they had more belief in their attacking ability they could perhaps have scored.
Yet at halftime, the score stood at 0-0, in one of the worst 45 minutes of football I have ever had watched, comparable to England’s abysmal draw with Algeria at the 2010 World Cup. Old Trafford certainly has become the Theatre of Dreams as every man, woman, and child in the stadium has undoubtedly fallen asleep watching that turgid display.
Within the first few minutes of the second half more had happened than the whole of the first. Lukaku bravely muscled several players off the ball before finding Lingard. The eventual shot was heading straight into the bottom corner if not for a good save by Rico. Moments later Rashford came close too, United were really treating their fans now.
Mourinho made his first substitution in the 59th minute as Fellaini makes way for Pogba. His impact was felt instantaneously felt as the game went back to being mind-numbingly boring. You could almost hear the collective thought of every fan in the stadium worrying about having to tell their other half it’ll be going to penalties.
Finally, in the 74th minute, something happens. Ben Yedder, with his third touch after coming on, fires the ball into the bottom right-hand corner. Now United have egg on their faces playing so defensively. They should feel embarrassed. This is what happens when you park the bus when the threat of the away goal rule looms large.
Mourinho used his last two substitutions to bring on Mata and Martial in place of Valencia and Lingard and the team immediately reacts by going a second goal down by conceding another from Ben Yedder. Even the world class showstopper David de Gea can’t stop everyone on his team working against him.
This is exactly why you don’t park the bus when conceding one goal means you’re basically out. Mourinho should be ashamed of himself for telling his team to play like they did. Manchester United have one of the strongest teams in the competition but he’s acting as if they are the underdogs.
Suddenly hope appeared for United fans when in the 84th minute Lukaku grabbed one back from a corner. They would still need to claw two more back to progress in the competition. The exodus of people leading the stadium suddenly reversed and everyone returned to their seats hoping for a miracle.
Rashford got a yellow card in the dying seconds of added time as United — with complete disregard for the whole point of football — don’t push forward, they don’t try to score, they just waste the time and money of every fan in the stadium and watching at home. It was the worst United display I have ever seen. In the Champion’s League too, not the damned Carabao Cup. Pathetic. Every player on the pitch wearing red was a disgrace. If you can’t fire yourself up for a game this big then maybe football isn’t the sport for you.