United opened its round of 16 tie with the 5th place squad in La Liga Sevilla and put itself in position to advance with a 0-0 draw in the first leg away in Spain.
United opened up with a 4-2-3-1 which continues to be ineffective for Jose Mourinho and Man United, but it is results that matter and a goalless draw sets up United with the simplest formula to advance, just win.
The backline was comprised on Chris Smalling, Victor Lindelof manning the middle, while Young and Valencia took the outside back positions.
Scott McTominay and Nemanja Matic started in the holding midfield positions, while Juan Mata got the start at Center attacking midfield and was flanked by Alexis Sanchez and Ander Herrera who got the nod ahead of Paul Pogba, fueling speculation about a rift between Pogba and the manager.
Romelu Lukaku was in his familiar role of target striker and of course, David de Gea got the start in goal and turned in a man of the match performance.
It is no secret that Jose Mourinho prefers to grind out results on the road and especially in Europe. Even more specifically, Mourinho prefers the defensive style in the first leg of a two-legged tie on the road.
Ultimately, United didn’t concede and are set up needing any form of victory to advance to the quarterfinal of the Champions League.
Sevilla dominated the first half, attempting 12 shots to United’s 2, and 5 of them on frame. Of the 5 on frame, de Gea was forced to stop 3 grade A chances which he did to keep the scoreline level at the break.
Through the second half, Sevilla attempted 25 shots to United’s 6. 8 of Sevilla’s attempts were on net, and the de Gea stopped them all.
Just 16 minutes into the match, Ander Herrara came up with what appeared to be a hamstring injury and was forced to leave the game. Paul Pogba, who Mourinho indicated was good for the match though left on the bench, became the first option for Man United and he settled into the action nicely.
Overall, it was a balanced performance based on possession, and United had its chances including Lukaku finishing from close range before being waved off for a legitimate hand ball, and creating several promising counters in the second half.
All in all, it was disappointing to be outclassed by La Liga’s 5th place squad, and to nearly concede three first half goals.
However, almost does not count as the saying goes and although ugly, it was typical Mourinho, grinding out the draw and setting up the second leg.
So often when facing Mourinho’s teams you are left saying “they were so bad, how could they win”. I feel like Sevilla will be left saying that next month.