Manchester United overrun by Sevilla but De Gea stands firm
Goalkeeper makes key saves to send tie back to Old Trafford scoreless
Manchester United’s David De Gea makes a save from Sevilla’s Luis Muriel during the Champions League round of 16 first leg game at the Sánchez Pizjuán stadium. Photograph: Jon Nazca/Reuters
Manchester United manager Jose Mourinho gives instructions to Paul Pogba as the midfielder goes on in the first half of the Champions League round of 16 first leg against Sevilla at the Ramon Sánchez Pizjuán stadium. Photograph: Juan Medina/Reuters
Sevilla 0 Manchester United 0
And so to Old Trafford. Applause rang round the Sánchez Pizjuán. Sevilla had not been able to defeat Manchester United but their supporters recognised they had been close and there is still hope they can reach the quarter-final of this competition for the first time in their history.
United, too, may consider this a decent result. Often overrun, two superb saves from David de Gea kept them in a game where goals were absent. A game where to start with, Paul Pogba had been absent, too – and that is likely to occupy the next few days almost as much as this performance will.
The game was only 16 minutes in when Ander Herrera pulled up and had to depart; Pogba came on to replace him.
Sevilla had started on the front foot and the change did not significantly alter that, although Alexis Sánchez’s lovely ball did find Romelu Lukaku, who volleyed over from close range soon after and Scott McTominay struck Sergio Rico’s palms from 20 yards. Largely, United looked long towards Lukaku and while there were few glimpses of goal the sense of danger was never entirely extinguished.
At one point, Pogba rolled an opponent and began a move that led to Juan Mata dashing up the left, but it was Éver Banega who was having the most notable impact in the middle of midfield. The Argentinian’s favoured ball was speared leftwards for Joaquín Correa. From one of those, Correa drew the first save from De Gea. On the other side, Sevilla’s converted full back Jesús Navas bombed up and down, defensively sound, and offensively dangerous.
Sevilla were growing into this game. A swift counter that infuriated José Mourinho broke down when Sergio Escudero could not quite guide the ball into the path of Pablo Sarabia, but the pressure built, and United’s discomfort was revealed when Victor Lindelof almost played his goalkeeper into trouble.
By half-time the shot count read 12-2. The best of those came just before the break, but De Gea made two superb saves. The first, from Steven N’Zonzi’s flick header of Sarabia’s overhead, was tipped over the bar.
If that was good, what followed, from Luis Muriel, was better. All around the Pizjuán they could barely believe it. Muriel, head on the turf, couldn’t either; he got to his feet and congratulated the man who had denied him. Nor, it seemed, could Lindelof, who approached his goalkeeper for a grateful word as they walked off.
When they walked backed on, the pattern continued. With Franco Vázquez’s involvement increasing, his touch subtle and assured, and with Sarabia supporting him to the right side, Sevilla continued to press. Within six minutes the corner count was 12-3 – but the count was one thing, the quality of the delivery another.
The shot count rose too, albeit usually from some distance: Vázquez curled over, Muriel’s first effort deflected wide and his second skidded past the near post; a clipped free-kick found Clément Lenglet barely six yards out, but he could not get sufficient power on his header; and then Correa dribbled into the area, only to slice high and wide. De Gea had few problems from Banega’s free-kick. He might have had rather more had Muriel, sliding in, been able to reach Sarabia’s ball in.
The game was happening at his end of this arena, where the noise rolled down from the stands. United were being overrun, unable to create opportunities or produce a prolonged period of passes. The space ahead of them was enticing, and both Marcus Rashford and Anthony Martial were introduced to try to exploit that. But while there was pace and space, United still needed to find a way to put the ball into it. It might only take one, but as the game went on there were still none, still less a shot.
Only Sevilla had attempts on goal in the second half, the “score” 21-4 with 10 minutes to go. Few, though, were clear chances. Sarabia, swift to the ball as ever, slipped the ball to Muriel and continued running, heading into space at the far post. Muriel clipped towards him but, stretching, he could only guide his header over the bar. When Vázquez lifted a lovely ball into his path, leaving him one on one, he had strayed offside. As the clock ticked down, so the margins became finer, the risks greater, and suddenly there was a roar.
United had the all in the net. Pogba found Lukaku, who used his hand before scoring. It was ruled out, but there was a warning. With four minutes to go Sandro Ramirez, on as a sub, saw his shot blocked inside the area and then Navas went tumbling. The appeal was loud, but the referee waved play on. Again, United broke but they were blunt. There were nerves here now, but little else. Old Trafford awaits. – Guardian service