Sevilla vs Manchester United | Europa League Semi-Final | RHEINEnergieStadion | KO: 20:00 GMT | BT Sports
The words muttered repeatedly by Jose Mourinho following Manchester United’s Champions League exit at the hands of Sevilla in 2018 marked the beginning of the end for the Portuguese.
When United face Sevilla on Sunday night, there is more than just a place in the Europa League final up for grabs; it’s a chance for retribution, closure, and for Ole Gunnar Solskjaer to create his own “football heritage” in the world of management.
Sunday’s Europa League Semi-Final sees Solskjaer’s reds competing in their third semi of the season, following unsuccessful attempts at reaching the FA Cup and League cup finals respectively.
They face a Sevilla side in scintillating European form, hot off the back of an impressive 1-0 victory over Wolverhampton Wanderers in the quarter final. The Spanish outfit are the most successful in the competition’s history, winning it five times, including a three-year spell of dominance from 2014 to 2016.
How do Manchester United look?Embed from Getty Images
Unsurprisingly, defenders Phil Jones, Axel Tuanzebe, Luke Shaw and Diogo Dalot are the only confirmed absentees for Sunday’s match, meaning the boss should have a near full selection of players to help him to his first final as United manager.
The Reds impressed in parts against Copenhagen last time out, with the Danish side’s goalkeeper producing a number of heroic saves to force the match to extra-time. On another day, Anthony Martial would have scored at least three, and the game would have been over inside ninety minutes.
If Martial and United show the same attacking intent against Sevilla, the strength of the front three of Martial, Rashford and Greenwood should be enough to see them through.
However, the jobs of the midfield and defence will be just as important to any success that they may find.
One of those vital players will undoubtedly be Bruno Fernandes.Embed from Getty Images
Speaking ahead of the match, Fernandes discussed the pressures of signing for United, and the way he has adapted his game to fit the pace and style of the Premier League. He said “When a club pays for a player £55million you have confidence. All the conversations I had with my coach and my teammates has helped me. When you have that voice on your own back telling you to do your own game it is easier for you.”
Often compared to the signing of Eric Cantona, Fernandes had his say on the comparisons.
“For me, Cantona was an amazing player for the club, but I need to do much, much better to be compared to him”, he said, with a seemingly impressive grasp on the true football heritage of the club.
Many will find it easy to predict United’s eleven for Sunday’s match, but it will be interesting to see how Solskjaer will approach this one, given the quality of the Sevilla side he will be up against.
Sevilla have never lost against Manchester United, and many fans of The Red Devil’s will be desperate to set the record straight when the teams lock horns in the Europa League Semi-Final.Embed from Getty Images
A fast, aggressive and pressing side, Sevilla will look to unsettle United’s backline by not giving them a moment to relax or think about their next pass.
In their previous two semi-finals of the season, The Reds were pressed against with great intensity by both Chelsea and Manchester City.
United’s defence could not deal with the press, and often resorted to ‘hit and hope’ long balls to get out from the back, with little success. Solskjaer’s men clearly struggle against sides who press from the front, and this will be a massive concern for the Norwegian, who will have to find away to help his side escape the press.
One way to possibly do this would be by stretching the pitch as wide as possible, allowing the fullbacks to be outlets for the transition from defence to attack, reducing the pressure on the centre halves having to find an advancing pass into midfield.
The biggest threat posed by Sevilla is in the form of Lucas Ocampos. The Argentine right winger contributed by scoring 14 goals during the La Liga season, whilst also providing three assists for teammates.Embed from Getty Images
Fullback partners Sergio Regullion and Jesus Navas (formally of Manchester City) won the ‘full backs of the year’ award during the Spanish campaign for their influential performances going forwards, as well as solid work tracking back.
The result of the match may therefore lie in the ability of Bruno Fernandes finding accurate balls to Mason Greenwood and Marcus Rashford, who will likely be facing the fullback pairing.
United’s winning penalty against Copenhagen was the 21st that the side have been awarded this season, the most of any club in Europe.Embed from Getty Images
United have never beaten Sevilla, drawing once and losing once in the two-legged tie under Jose Mourinho in 2018.
Manchester United 1-0 Sevilla. A penalty from Bruno Fernandes to decide this one.
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