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MANCHESTER UNITED 1-2 SEVILLA: Woeful United dumped out of Europe as Ben Yedder punishes Mourinho's negative tactics


Manchester United manager Jose Mourinho is getting a lot of stick from his side's fans for the way they went out of the Champions League on Tuesday - and rightly so.

Jose Mourinho made his reputation as a manager who always seemed to know the right performance for the right game, although as he watched his Champions League campaign turn to dust against a club who were last Spanish title winners in 1946, he may wonder if this old trick is wearing thin.

Against Liverpool on Saturday his team dug in to defend a two-goal lead and were lauded for it, and then three days later, when their superiority should have told against such a modest Sevilla side, United could not conjure a coherent attacking performance. They stuttered and they stumbled and then, in the space of four second-half minutes, they conceded two goals to a French substitute who is becoming one of the unlikely heroes of this season’s Champions League.

Only Cristiano Ronaldo has scored more goals than Wissam Ben Yedder in this season’s competition and even that did not guarantee the Frenchman a place in the Sevilla starting XI, instead he had to wait to come on with 20 minutes left and then heaped embarrassment on United. The first of his two goals came just three minutes after the Stretford End had volubly demanded their team attack, and you wondered, at a club where it once seemed second nature, if they have had that instinct coached out of them.

Everything Mourinho tried to do to make it better only seemed to achieve the opposite, including the introduction of substitute Paul Pogba - left out in favour of Marouane Fellaini, and then thrown on only to look even less effective than the man he had replaced. If the victory over Liverpool was held up as evidence of Mourinho’s cunning, then it begs the question how they failed to beat a side even further behind the La Liga’s leaders Barcelona in their domestic league than United are behind City.

The dawning reality is that Mourinho’s gameplan against Liverpool, that plunder-and-lockdown approach, might work occasionally but what about the nights like these when the stage is set for United to play as United are supposed to play at home? You could make a case for defending against the free-scoring Liverpool on Saturday but there was no justification to play with the handbrake on against a spirited but mediocre Sevilla side who United could have overwhelmed if only they knew how.
United have committed to Mourinho with that new contract and they will hope that a new style evolves that is more tangible for the future of the team than this performance in one of their biggest games of the season. What approach, for instance, does Mourinho take when Brighton come to Old Trafford on Saturday in the FA Cup quarter-final, a competition that is United’s last hope of progressing to a trophy this season? The mood changes very quickly at this club in the post Sir Alex Ferguson era and it could yet get worse.
It could be that Manchester City seal the league title next month when they play their old rivals at home and both they and Liverpool have reached the quarter-finals of the Champions League with ease. For the United manager it was a result that he brushed off as one of those things that happen in football, recalling times when, as Porto and Real Madrid manager, he had eliminated United, but this is one of those things that happens to teams that have no discernible style of dominating games.

They hit the ball early and long to Romelu Lukaku, who had one of his better games, eventually claiming the goal that gave some faint hope to the supporters who had stayed after Ben Yedder’s second. In the first half, Fellaini, recalled for his first start since November 22, operated in a no-man’s-land between a deep midfield and a distant attack, trying to head the ball down into the path of Lukaku or chase shadows in Sevilla’s midfield.

Fellaini tried to get forward and he tried to get back and in the meantime Steven N’Zonzi and Ever Banega had the upper hand in the centre of midfield, although until Ben Yedder’s arrival there was no cutting edge to their attack. Ben Yedder was a futsal international for France, a footballer who developed without the benefit of a traditional academy education, and perhaps Vincenzo Montella’s reservations were about the physicality of this man who now has eight goals to Ronaldo’s 12 this season.

He took his first goal beautifully after United, trying to build a move from their own half, lost possession and had it turned back on them swiftly by Sevilla as the ball went from Banega to Pablo Sarabia and then Ben Yedder. He took a fine touch to keep it away from Eric Bailly and then slotted a shot past David De Gea’s left hand.

United’s response was instructive, insomuch as they fell apart. On the touchline, Mourinho was demanding his last two substitutions like a man ordering drinks at closing time. Anthony Martial and Juan Mata came on and immediately United seemed to get worse. A cross slung into the area and headed on by Joaquin Correa was steered over the line at the back post by Ben Yedder.

The warning signs had been there before then when Sevilla had created chances for their Colombian striker Luis Muriel, who had been largely ineffective. Alexis Sanchez had created the best United chance of the first half for Fellaini, which goalkeeper Sergio Rico saved, but this was another poor show from the Chilean who seemed largely to be on the ball a long way from goal. He has not had the transformative effect on the team that was anticipated, unless Mourinho always saw him as an auxiliary midfielder.

Lukaku volleyed a Marcus Rashford corner from close proximity for the goal but it is difficult to be a defensive team for the best part of two games and then transition to an all-out attack when your life depends upon it. If United had a plan to win this game then it never quite revealed itself, rather they were a side who spent far too much of the evening trying not to lose until at last even that was beyond them.

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