Manchester United crashed out of the Champions League on Tuesday, losing 2-1 at home to Sevilla after a goalless first leg.
Wissam Ben Yedder struck twice in six minutes after coming on as a 72nd-minute substitute to down Jose Mourinho’s side, which had been mystifyingly lackluster throughout the round. For Sevilla, this will be its first Champions League/European Cup quarterfinal in 60 years; Man United, meanwhile, still hasn’t been into the last eight since David Moyes was in charge.
In the day's other last-16 game, Edin Dzeko got the only goal as Roma beat Shakhtar Donetsk 1-0 to go through on the away goals rule after a 2-2 aggregate draw, sending the Italian side to just its fourth quarterfinal ever.
Here are three thoughts on the day in the Champions League:
Ben Yedder, Sevilla punish sloppy Man United
Sevilla had never won in England in six previous attempts. It had not been beyond the last 16 of Europe's top competition in six decades. Manchester United had only lost two of 51 home games under Jose Mourinho–both against Manchester City. Sevilla had conceded 20 times in 11 games under Vincenzo Montella, including letting in five on three occasions. Every statistic said United should win with ease, and perhaps that was part of the problem. United was dreadful; Sevilla was good enough, improving as the game went on as though unable quite to believe its luck.
United had been warned, with Eric Bailly making a last-gasp challenge to deny Joaquin Correa in his shooting stride early in the second half, but nothing improved. After the introduction of Ben Yedder came the reckoning. Ever Banega, making the play from deep, had found space all night, and it was his through ball that set the substitute in to put Sevilla ahead with a low shot. That was bad from a defensive point of view, but the second goal four minutes later was even worse, as Correa was left unmarked at the near post to flick on a corner for Ben Yedder to bang in his second. Only Cristiano Ronaldo has scored more than the French forward in the Champions League this season.
Only then did United wake up, Romelu Lukaku pulling one back from a corner. By then, though, it was too late. This was dreadful, but there will be questions, too, about why United made itself so vulnerable with such a negative performance in the goalless first leg. United still has the FA Cup to play for, but even if it wins that, this season will go down as an enormous disappointment.
Man United's Alexis Sanchez issue
Alexis Sanchez is becoming a real issue for Mourinho. This was his 10th appearance since his signing from Arsenal in a swap deal with Henrikh Mkhitaryan, and he has yet to settle in. It’s by no means the only measure of effectiveness, but it’s telling that his only goal so far was knocking in the rebound after his penalty had been saved in a 2-0 league win over Huddersfield. He didn’t play badly here: there was one superb pass to Marcus Rashford early in the second half, but when Rashford created a chance for him after 57 minutes, he got the ball caught under his feet and prodded it tamely into the body of defender Clement Lenglet.
The inclusion of Marouane Fellaini for Scott McTominay and Jesse Lingard for Juan Mata were the only changes from Saturday’s victory over Liverpool in terms of personnel, but there was a change of role. On Saturday, Rashford scored twice coming in off the left, with Sanchez used behind Lukaku and Mata on the right. Here, Sanchez was switched to the left, with Rashford moving right and Lingard central. Whether that was solely responsible for a bafflingly lethargic display is impossible to say, but it certainly didn’t help.
After the excellent home wins over Chelsea and Liverpool, this was a return to the flatness of the game at Crystal Palace when United went 2-0 down before coming back to win 3-2. Mourinho regularly insists that defending well is not a crime, and he is right in that, but this drabness was less the result of a cautious set up than a lack of energy and a sloppiness on the ball.
It would be wrong to blame Sanchez for that, but equally it’s fair to ask exactly what he has brought and what he was supposed to bring. That he is a talented forward is not in doubt; how exactly he fits into this oddly shapeless Man United very much is.
Shakhtar exits with plenty of regrets
For Shakhtar this was a Champions League exit replete with regret. What if the competition didn’t burden itself with the absurd away goals rule? What if it had taken a couple more of the many chances it created in the first half? What if it had a better goalkeeper than Andriy Pyatov?
The Ukraine goalkeeper has his moments, but he is also prone to a high-profile gaffe. This perhaps wasn’t an overt mistake but equally there a sense he made things easy for Dzeko's winner. Kevin Strootman’s pass was good, but if Pyatov hadn’t come flying off his line, what would Dzeko have done from the corner of the box? Perhaps he would have applied the perfect touch to set up a shooting chance, but that would have been a much harder skill than simply jabbing the ball past the onrushing keeper. The finish showed great awareness, but Pyatov turned a half-chance into a much more dangerous one, and it's Shakhtar that is headed out of the competition despite a golden chance to go through.