How Sevilla knocked Manchester United out of the Champions League
The UEFA Champions League has been the world football's top club competition for a very long time. It's a competition where superstars are made and legends are born. The winners of the tournament command such respect that they receive bragging rights over all other clubs in the continent, thus, a champions league victory is a necessity these days, if you intend to consider yourself a "big club".
For clubs such as Manchester United, whose fans claim it to be the biggest club in England and one of the best in Europe, a successful Champions League run is cardinal to validate their claims.
Alas, this year the fans were in for a rude awakening. Many of them were left sobbing and weeping, as Jose Mourinho's men/bus was steered out of the competition by Sevilla.
It was widely beileved that the Red Devils got a relatively easy draw against arguably the weakest Sevilla side of the past decade. Along with Manchester City, the Reds of Manchester were also expected to make it to the quarter-finals with relative ease. However, things soon went awry.
Everyone has been blaming United's Portuguese gaffer and his dismal tactics for the result. However, people have forgotten to give Sevilla and Wissam Ben Yedder the credit that they rightfully deserve. Here's how the Spanish side made a mockery out of Manchester United's UCL aspirations and knocked them out of the tournament.
Sevilla's tactical masterclass!
It's safe to say that neither Sevilla nor the Mancunians would have been content with the result of the first-leg. Los Nervioness had failed to score on their own home ground and the Red Devils had missed out at scoring an important away goal. Thus, the game at Old Trafford was open for the taking.
Manager Vincenzo Montella deployed his Sevilla side with a 4-2-3-1 formation to counter United's 4-1-4-1 formation.
He was cautious in his approachas he obviously expected Manchester United to come out guns blazing. Hence, he had set-up his team with an organised defence and a strong midfield, determined not to concede and to try to hurt the home team on the counter-attack.
"The Special One" probably shocked his Sevilla counterpart by himself setting-up his team to be defensively resolute. Marouane Fellaini was clearly instructed to bombard the penalty box and to use his strength and height to his advantage. However, this left Nemanja Matic all alone and outnumbered in the midfield.
Sevilla midfielders, Ever Banega and Pablo Sarabia in particular were quick to notice United's midfield frailties and constantly tried to corner and outnumber Matic in the middle.
To his credit, the Serbian was as reliable as ever but whenever he got caught out of his position, the Spanish side quickly utilised the spaces left behind.
Fellaini would often get back to help Matic but he was well-shadowed by Steven N'Zonzi and was constantly tackled. When Fellaini didn't track back, it again left too much space in United's midfield for the visitors to exploit.
Sevilla were utilising a high pressue, man-marking system that rendered the United midfield ineffective. The White and Reds were clearly well-coached before the game and had been assigned a United player whom they had to mark.
Not just in-form forwards like Romelu Lukaku and Marcus Rasford but even the centre-halves such as Eric Bailly and Chris Smalling were also being shadowed by a Sevilla player.
Whenever the Red Devils got the ball inside the opposition's half, the player who had the ball was aggressively pressurised by two Sevilla players. This led Manchester United attackers to lose possession and make awful, wayward passes.
The big Belgian, Fellaini's aerial threat was also neutralized by N'Zonzi and Clement Lenglet.
Lukaku was a constant thorn for Sevilla's defenders, but the opposition's back four did a great job in subduing the other United forwards.
Thus, it meant that just like Matic, "Big Rom" too was alone and outnumbered. Hence, the twenty-time English champions were toothless and never looked like scoring a goal.
On the other hand, Sevilla's attack was a constant threat to the United defence all night long. Mourinho's men were utilizing their regular zonal marking tactic but as discussed earlier, with only Matic in the midfield, plenty of space was left behind him.
Sevilla's forwards wisely positioned themselves between the Red Devils' defence and midfield. They then used short through balls and their pace to get in behind the United defence.
For instance, Joaquin Correa used his pace to get on the end of through balls. He would then often put in a dangerous low cross into the penalty box or would rather cut inside and take a shot himself.
For the most part, the only thing missing from Sevilla's game was the end product. Their passes in the final third were pretty wasteful throughout the match.
However, it all changed in the 72nd minute, when Ben Yedder came on for Luis Muriel.
The French forward has been Sevilla's top scorer this season and is renowned for his clinical finishing. He provided an extra edge to the team's previously blunt attacks.
In the 74th minute of the game, Sarabia utilised the huge chunk of space in United's midfield and dribbled ahead with the ball. With Matic being out of position, Smalling had to step into the midfield to stop Sarabia from charging forward.
Smalling coming ahead, left space for Yedder to run into between Eric Bailly and the left-back, Ashley Young. Sarabia then released the ball for Yedder who brilliantly beat Bailly and David De Gea to score.
Four minutes later, Yedder again displayed great predatory instincts to score from a corner.
Lukaku got a solitary goal for United which proved to be a futile effort.
A brilliant and brave Sevilla side, led by the goal hungry Yedder and Montella's tactical genius, threw Manchester United out of the UCL.
They deserve high praise and credit for their achievement. However, instead of praising Sevilla, everyone is busy giving Mourinho's poor tactics the credit for Sevilla's victory.
The fact is that Sevilla weren't lucky to win that match. They also didn't rely on Mourinho's poor tactics, "The Special One" was simply outwitted by Montella.
Montella, Yedder and Sevilla crashed Mourinho's bus and they surely deserve much more credit.