Jose Mourinho and his Manchester United bus rolled into Seville on Wednesday night as the Red Devils held Vincenzo Montella's men to a bore draw.
Despite having plenty of the ball, and dominating the match stats over 90 minutes with over 25 shots, Sevilla failed to make the most of their home advantage, and were frustratingly forced into the return leg at Old Trafford with the aggregate score goalless.
Sevilla came into the game most likely unaware that Ray Wilkins had likened them to a bottom six Premier League club, but would’ve been confident of getting a result nevertheless in front of a lively home crowd at Estadio Ramon Sanchez Pizjuan.
From a Manchester United perspective, many headed into the match expecting Jose Mourinho to park the bus away from Old Trafford, as news emerged that Paul Pogba would start the match on the bench, instead being replaced by Scott McTominay in a more defensive setup alongside Nemanja Matic and Ander Herrera. Unfortunately for the neutral, they were not wrong.
As with most matches at this level of football, the game started out with a bit of a feeling out process. The opening 15 minutes saw minor opportunities open up for both sides, but ultimately, the match began very much balanced out.
The night quickly became a frustrating one for Herrera, who has found game time hard to come by this season. The Spaniard pulled up early on with a hamstring injury – resulting in an early bath and an earlier introduction for Pogba than expected.
Bitter disappointment for Mourinho as he's left with no option but to play his most talented midfielder in his preferred position.— Tom Williams (@tomwfootball) February 21, 2018
While the game remained a relatively lively one throughout the first half, neither team was able to get a grip on the match and carve out anything to get excited about – with Sevilla looking the more likely to score out of the two teams.
As the first half drew to a close, the home side really began to pile on the pressure with both Steven N’Zonzi and Luis Muriel both forcing David de Gea to produce a couple of top quality save from close range. However, both teams headed into the break with the score goalless after a physical first 45.
The second half effectively started in the same trend as the first. Sevilla remained in control, but were unable to create much. Mourino had come to Spain to defend – something evident in his starting lineup – and so far it was working.
Keeping their structure, and allowing little room for movement in their own half, United continued to allow their hosts to have the ball, with Montella’s men unable to get through the away side’s back line; being limited to long rang efforts that were never beating de Gea.
Hate to say this but Man Utd, in most big games (esp. away from home), just sit in there, defend and wait to get beaten.— Scott Saunders (@_scottsaunders) February 21, 2018
It took until the 70th minute for some slight excitement to come in the second half – testament to United’s defensive strength – when Pablo Sarabia fizzed a ball across the face of the goal; Muriel only inches away from his outstretched foot poking the ball into the back of the net.
The 82nd minute saw Romelu Lukaku have the ball in the back of the net, only for his near post finish to be ruled out for handball. A delightfully scooped pass from Pogba came to Lukaku at chest height, but the Belgian used his arm to bring the ball down before slotting home. A rare moment of excitement for United fans.
Sevilla continued to ask questions as the final moments of the game approached; but ultimately, the home side just couldn't break down the well organised defence that Mourinho had set up - the game eventually ending 0-0, Mourinho's game plan going off without a hitch.