Two goals up and seemingly cruising toward the Europa League semifinals, Manchester United is now counting the cost of a late meltdown against Sevilla.
Own goals from Tyrell Malacia and Harry Maguire in the 84th and 92nd minutes on Thursday left the quarterfinals in the balance at 2-2 ahead of next week’s second leg in Spain.
Meanwhile, injuries to center backs Raphael Varane and Lisandro Martinez added to a bad night for Erik ten Hag.
The United manager is already without injured leading scorer Marcus Rashford at a critical point of the season. Bruno Fernandes is also suspended for the second leg after picking up his third yellow card of the competition.
“We had the game in our hands, we were 2-0 up and should have scored three or four, then we had some unlucky moments with injuries,” Ten Hag said. “I know we can do better in the last part of the game, we have to be more composed. We were a little bit unlucky defensively. It wasn’t a nice night.”
It was Sevilla’s visiting supporters who could be heard singing loudest at the final whistle, with Old Trafford stunned by the Spanish team’s fightback.
United can expect a hot reception at Ramon Sanchez-Pizjuan Stadium next week after giving the Spaniards a lifeline at a time when they looked to be headed out of a competition they have dominated in recent times.
However, the team was made to rue a number of squandered chances as two Sevilla goals in the closing few minutes turned the tie completely on its head.
With just five minutes of regulation time remaining, United’s defensive frailties came back to haunt it once again as hesitance in the back line first allowed Jesús Navas in behind to fire a deflected effort off Tyrell Malacia and past David de Gea.
After making all five substitutes, United was then forced to play the remaining minutes with just 10 men after Lisandro Martínez was carried off with an apparent foot injury.
Sevilla showed their attacking danger early but it took Tyrell Malacia switching off for Jesus Navas to force an own goal against a squad that he knows quite well. A former Manchester City player, causing chaos at Old Trafford is always a good moment for him especially with it shifting the tide of the match. United would go down to ten as Lisandro Martinez had to be helped off the with four minutes remaining after getting his boot caught in the pitch as the hosts didn’t have any more substitutions available.
United going down to 10 gave Sevilla the opening they needed as the visitors’ second key shot took a wicked deflection off of Harry Maguire’s forehead and past a helpless David De Gea. Now concerns are mounting for the team. Without Marcus Rashford and Luke Shaw, another injury to a key player could be too much for the team to cope with but they were the better side for 85 minutes. Both teams will also be down a player in the second leg due to yellow card accumulation seeing Bruno Fernandes and Gonzalo Montiel miss out.
For most of the season, when United poke their noses ahead in matches, they hold onto the lead but this is where depth concerns outside of the first team rear their heads. Ten Hag has a group of players that he can trust but when they aren’t available, that’s when questions still need to be answered.
Depth stretched to its limits
Ten Hag will thank his lucky stars that he got Christian Eriksen and Martial back when he did but even they may not be enough. There’s a chance that the defense going to Sevilla will be Malacia (who scored an own goal), Maguire (who scored an own goal), Victor Lindelof (who hasn’t started or played more than 14 minutes in a match for the club since March 1), and Aaron Wan-Bissaka. It’s safe to say that despite their La Liga woes, Sevilla will be licking their chops in this case.
Then you get down to the fact that United will also be without their two best players in Fernandes and Rashford. Sure, United will be expected to win the match but that’s only on name reputation as an away match in Sevilla is as tough as it gets. Sevilla may have struggled against Champions League teams but now that they’re back to a competition that they know against a team both under pressure and on the ropes, United’s road to the Europa League title may come to an end in Spain. Even with Sevilla being at risk of being relegated from La Liga, the belief that they have will push them forward.
Sabitzer is making strong case to stay
United wouldn’t have signed Sabitzer on loan from Bayern Munich in January had Christian Eriksen not suffered a nasty ankle injury — but the Austrian midfielder looks determined to stay. There’s no permanent option in the agreement with Bayern, so, as things stand, Sabitzer is set to return to Germany at the end of the season. But a couple more performances like this and he has every chance of extending his stay at Old Trafford.
Playing in a more advanced role against Sevilla with Fernandes closer to Casemiro, Sabitzer scored twice inside the first 20 minutes — both times running beyond the Sevilla defence to get on the end of passes from a midfielder, first from Fernandes and then from Anthony Martial.
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