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It was a quarter-final to forget for Manchester United – but a second leg in Seville which is likely to stick in Erik ten Hag’s mind when building his squad for next season.
In the first leg at Old Trafford, United were 2-0 up and cruising only for a pair of late own goals to leave the tie in the balance. The worst was yet to come.
Amid a thunderous atmosphere at Ramon Sanchez-Pizjuan Stadium, Sevilla ran out comfortable 3-0 winners – 5-2 on aggregate – with two of their goals directly down to United errors.
Ten Hag’s side only have themselves to blame. No wonder the United manager was furious in his post-match interviews.
“This was a great opportunity, a great occasion, to win something and we gave it away – we have to blame ourselves,” he told BT Sport.
“It’s gone, we can’t change it. We have to look forward to Sunday, that’s the next opportunity.
“It’s unacceptable. We lost the battles, they had more passion, more desire, more willingness, that’s difficult to win games.
“Everyone can see the demands and standard has to be higher in a club like Manchester United.”
United face Brighton at Wembley in the FA Cup semi-finals on Sunday before visiting Tottenham in a key game in the Premier League top-four race four days later.
They have won a trophy this season , but if they repeat their performance in Seville in these games, their season could be in tatters.
Of course, the opposite could be true – with so much to play for, there is the immediate opportunity for United’s players to put this debacle behind them. However, this felt like a tipping point for many of the squad.
With Bruno Fernandes suspended, they created almost nothing. Marcus Rashford, their top scorer this season, was thrown on half-fit at half-time as he continues to recover from a groin injury – demonstrating their lack of cutting edge.
In midfield, Casemiro was well below his best and picked up a yellow card which would have ruled him out of the semi-final first leg – not that United ever looked like making it that far.
Harry Maguire endured another torrid evening in the centre of defence, giving the ball away for the opener, while alongside him Victor Lindelof was not much better.
Without the injured Raphael Varane and Lisandro Martinez, United are simply not good enough in defence – and must surely reinforce in the summer.
“I think tonight has made Ten Hag’s mind up on a few of these players,” former United midfielder Paul Scholes told BT Sport. “That is probably the only good thing that will come out of this.
“This shows the squad isn’t good enough, if you have injuries. This squad can handle other games but when it comes to the crunch, the big atmosphere, it falls short. The quality drops a level when the big players aren’t fit.”
Based on league tables, this was a shock defeat as Sevilla sit 13th in La Liga having endured a nightmare campaign near the relegation zone.
However, they are now unbeaten in five under Jose Luis Mendilibar – their third permanent manager of the season – and rose to the occasion here, as they always do in this competition.
“These players have won six Europa Leagues,” former United midfielder Owen Hargreaves told BT Sport of Sevilla. “They [United] haven’t been ready, they have been second best at every stage.
“I don’t think any of us saw this coming. This was lost in the second half at Old Trafford and United were not ready for this game.
“Sevilla played like everything was at stake. This was a disaster for United.”
Former Wales international Robbie Savage added: “Some of these players are playing for their Man Utd careers – is there any way back? I think it is going to be real tough for some to recover. This game has just shown if a few of their main players aren’t fit, the squad is miles off challenging.”
United have not won any of their five games against Sevilla in major European competition, the most they have faced a club without winning in their European history.
This is also the sixth season in a row United have been eliminated from a European knockout tie by Spanish opposition – with three of those coming against Sevilla.
Former Scotland midfielder Don Hutchinson tolf BT Sport: “Maybe they disrespected Sevilla, a team who won the trophy six times, incredible.
“I think Ten Hag will be looking at some of these players and thinking you are not fit to wear the red shirt of Man Utd.
“They also need a number nine. They have to go for Harry Kane, if not I would be stunned if they didn’t go for Victor Osimhen from Napoli.”
While the blame must be shared for this loss among the United squad, the largest chunk goes to David De Gea.
The United goalkeeper put Maguire under needless pressure for the opener with an ill-advised short pass, while he was fully to blame for the Sevilla third – rushing out from goal to try and half-volley a long ball away, only to totally miskick and allow Youssef En-Nesyri to seal the deal.
Add in Loic Bade’s header looping over him and in off the crossbar shortly after half-time, and it was one of the worst nights of De Gea’s career, with his current deal at Old Trafford expiring this summer.
Since the start of last season, according to Opta, no Premier League player has made more errors leading to an opposition goal in all competitions than de Gea, with five.
“De Gea has been a brilliant servant and a great shot stopper,” said Hargreaves. “But he is not good with his feet and Ten Hag wants to play out.
“Does he fit Ten Hag’s philosophy? Based on today, no.”
Scholes added: “David de Gea is not a fantastic footballer. He has been a fantastic servant to the club and a fantastic goalkeeper, but eventually Ten Hag will want to play out.”
Ten Hag was quick to defend his goalkeeper though. He said: “He’s the one with the most clean sheets in the Premier League, that shows he’s a very capable goalkeeper.”
It may be that several of the players who trudged off in Seville don’t fit in United’s future plans either – however Ten Hag must pick them up and prepare for Sunday, in order to prevent this campaign entering terminal decline.