One of the richest football clubs in the world. A team spattered with immense individual talent. ‘The Special One’ at the helm. That sounds like a recipe for world-beating success, doesn’t it? Well, no, as it turns out. Manchester United went out of the Champions League on Tuesday night with the wimpiest of whimpers.
I sat down to watch this game of football, popcorn in one hand, grossly oversized drink in the other, ready for a quality, entertaining spectacle. What I actually got was a fat load of sod all, especially from the home side. I mean yes, it’s always exciting when a clear underdog does one over on one of the big boys. But it’s not like Sevilla didn’t deserve the win. It’s not like they rode out wave after wave of United pressure before nabbing them on the break. In all honesty, I’m not even sure what they did do until Wissam Ben Yedder came off the bench and instantly had United’s pants firmly round their ankles.
The Frenchman struck his first blow just two minutes after coming off the bench in what was perhaps the most badly needed substitution I’ve ever seen. Ben Yedder is Sevilla’s top scorer this season with 16 goals, almost three times as many as the second in the running. The second top scorer happens to be Luis Muriel, the Colombian forward who started both legs in the tie against United and is perhaps the most average striker you could imagine.
Anyway, Ben Yedder came on and suddenly toothless Sevilla had teeth. United, kings of the sideways pass, lost possession far too easily in midfield, allowing the Ever classy Banega to pick out Pablo Sarabia in hell of a lot of space. He slid it through to Ben Yedder, who skipped past Eric Bailly and drove a low shot past De Gea.
That goal came in the 74th minute and United, suddenly realising that they were now going to have to score two to get through, kicked their arses into gear. Haha, only joking, of course. They conceded a corner just four minutes later and stood statuesque as it was whipped into Joaquin Correa at the near post in more space than the sort the late, great Stephen Hawking would theorise about. Correa flicked it on to find Ben Yedder at the far post who nodded it towards goal to see De Gea almost deny him, but the Spaniard could only flap at the second bounce after it had already crossed the line.
United’s trademark too-little-too-late fight back could only muster one of the three goals they then required after Lukaku smashed in the ball when a corner wasn’t dealt with. Evidently, Sevilla are no Crystal Palace and the away side hung on to see them go through as surely the dream tie for any of the others progressing to the quarter finals. Mo Salah clearly can’t wait for the draw, as he said in his trolling tweet as soon as United had lost.
Given the fact that United are now relying on just the FA Cup for any silverware this season, you’ve got to wonder if Mourinho’s maybe misplaced that recipe for success we were talking about. I imagine we’ll be seeing a West Ham style revolt any day now.