Manchester United were embarrassingly dumped out of the Champions League by Sevilla last night, after a 2-1 defeat at Old Trafford in the second leg on their last 16 tie. Jose Mourinho’s men but in a hugely lacklustre display, and in all honesty got what their overly cautious performance deserved. Here are 5 thing we learned …
Luck finally runs out for Mourinho’s masters of doing just enough
Last night’s turgid display was far from a first under under Jose Mourinho. Even during last season’s run to the Europa League Final, United made hard work of progressing against average sides like Rostov, Anderlecht and Celta Vigo. The only difference last night was that Mourinho’s men did not manage to scrape through, therefore masking the inefficiencies and general negativity of their performance.
The same has been true in the Premier League for most of the season. Displays lacking in intensity and fluidity simply masked over by just about getting the result. In many ways under Mourinho, the Red Devils have become the masters of just about doing enough.
However, last night their luck ran out. United ultimately paid the price for showing little or no ambition over the two legs, and got exactly what they deserved, as Wissam Ben Yedder’s double saw the La Liga side progress to the quarter-final.
United’s tactical and personnel switches a disaster
Mourinho was rightly lauded for his team’s performance against Liverpool last weekend. However, for some reason the Portuguese coach decided to break up that winning team, with his changes in tactics and personnel proving to be an absolute disaster.
Marouane Fellaini, who had not started a game in over four months was bizarrely brought into the team against a Sevilla side renowned for the ease in which they can keep possession. Not only was the Belgium international’s lack of mobility horribly exposed, his presence resulted in United’s main attacking tactic seemingly being to pump hopeful long balls to the back post towards the fuzzy haired 30-year-old.
Mourinho’s decision to switch Marcus Rashford from the left hand side of United’s attack, were he had looked so deadly against Liverpool, to the right was another monumental error. The young Mancunian just never looked comfortable on the right, and the man who replaced him on the left Alexis Sanchez, well we’ll talk about him next, but needless to say the Chile international can add yet another listless display to his growing collection for the Red Devils.
Sanchez and Pogba continues to look lost
January signing Alexis Sanchez and club record signing Paul Pogba are Manchester United’s two highest paid and commercially valuable players.
However, last night was simply further confirmation that both players are currently looking like shadows of the players that made the Old Trafford club invest so heavily in them.
Sanchez was again pigeon holed into his preferred position on the left to the detriment of his team. The 29-year-old continues to cough up possession at an alarming rate. Whilst it must be said that Sanchez quite often loses the ball due to the fact he tries a lot of high risk killer balls, he just seems to be on a completely different wave length to his team-mates. Although it is too early to say his move from the Emirates to Old Trafford has been a disaster, the initial signs are far from encouraging.
Pogba was once again left out of the starting line up, due to a combination of injury and a lack of faith by his manager in terms of his tactical discipline. The France international was introduced on the hour mark with the scoreline at 0-0, and instead of improving his sides performance, it almost impossibly became worse.
Pogba looks devoid of confidence. Gone is the swagger and ambition from his game. On the few occasions he did actually try and pass forward the ball ended up quite along way from it’s intended target.
Montella should have introduced Ben Yedder earlier
Sevilla boss Vincenzo Montella’s decision to bring striker Wissam Ben Yedder on for the struggling Muriel on 72 minutes last night, will in many quarters go down as a tactical masterstroke.
However, it also begs the question as to why the Italian coach did not bring on the two goal hero in the first leg or even earlier during last night’s tie. During both games Muriel worked hard, but looked woefully short of having the type of cutting edge required of a striker in Europe’s most prestigious competition.
Over the course of both legs Sevilla found it remarkably easy to proceed deep in the final third of the pitch, and created a huge amount of half chances that they should have done better with.
In fact, they had 21 shots on goal at Old Trafford last night, the most of any visiting team in seven years, which begs the question as to whether the La Liga side could actually have put United to the sword earlier in the tie had they had Ben Yedder, who has scored 10 goals in nine Champions League appearances, up front for a longer period.
This was Mourinho at his very worst
Despite being almost universally unpopular amongst fans of other club’s, having Jose Mourinho as your club’s manager does have its positive points. The Portuguese coach has always won trophies wherever he has managed and usually turns his club’s home ground’s into impenetrable fortresses.
On the flip side the 54-year-old’s penchant for controversy and his extreme tactical negativity can be hard to defend at times.
Last night Mourinho sent out a team to play a unnecessarily cautious and reactionary style of play, against a very average team. These tactics may be acceptable against more talented sides, but last night this Sevilla team were there for the taking had United simply approached the game with a more positive approach.
Whilst some fans do tend to look back at the Ferguson era through rose tinted glasses, there is little doubt that the United of old would have showed Sevilla little respect, and put this type of team team to bed early doors.
In the end, United’s negative approach had become so entrenched that by the time the visitors scored Mourinho’s men were simply unable to switch gear and ultimately paid the price.
His post match comments about there being nothing unusual about his club exiting the Champions League, have also enraged much of the club’s fanbase.
This was Mourinho worst.