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.
Are United Mourinho's worst team?
This is largely a group of individuals. Mourinho has had success in the past building teams but it's not all about spending big money, it's about getting the right balance of players in the team and to do that is incredibly difficult, especially when you consider how much United have to pay to get anyone.
Mourinho's greatest strength is making a group of players better as a team, but that group has to have the desire and determination to battle in every single match. Too many of those United players aren't at it, they're there to perform for cameras rather than as a functioning part of the team.
The style of football isn't exciting, that's clear, but despite the many millions Man Utd have spent for Mourinho, this is the least balanced team he's ever had. Paul Scholes says no matter who they buy, how much money they spend, United always look three or four players away from being a team.
Mourinho on the wind up
Mou: "I've sat in this chair twice before, with Porto - Man Utd out, with Real Madrid - Man Utd out, so this is nothing new for this football club." #MUFC— Kris Voakes (@krisvoakes) March 13, 2018
Steven Gerrard defending Mourinho
"I think it's just an off-night! They've been good at home!" says Steven Gerrard, the only manager in training out of all the pundits. Having that experience seems to have help him stop himself jumping to conclusions. Scholes and Ferdinand look like they've just been told their houses have burned down.
Jose Mourinho reaction
"I think the first goal would be always important in this match, not just because of the first leg. We try to be aggressive and intense and I could see some similarities between this and Liverpool but hten we didn't score then Sevilla progressively kept hte ball and controlled the game well.
"In second half we had good chances, good approaches to their box, they score one goal and form that moment everything becomes more emotional and much more difficult. The second goal impossible.
"The players were completely free for that, we had good situations, we had one good move with Lingard, Rashford and Valencia before end of first half which is exactly what we wanted. I can't say my players had something wrong with their attitude and intention to play.
"Fantastic team like Tottenham has the same as us to do that. Liverpool has the Champions League but doesn't have the FA Cup. That's football, that's life, we lost. Tomorrow is another day, Saturday is another match. We have no time for dramas, we have to work because we have an important match on Saturday."
Man Utd's shape
I agree with Scholes there. The shape is all over the place. Sanchez should be wide left but was nowhere near, Rashford was doing his best to make things happen but Lukaku kept dropping deeper and the midfield was way too empty. It's basically a 4-1-4-1 but with all the midfielders trying to occupy the same space.
As for players, here's Sanchez's pass map. So wasteful.
Paul Scholes says
"They were all over the place all night. There was no shape, no nothing. Nothing happened during the game."
Rio Ferdinand tearing Man Utd apart
The onus is on you to attack. The team started conservative, this team looked like a team who didn't have it in them to win it today. Sanchez looks like a shadow of what he was. Here he looks like a stranger. When you go to a new team you don't lose all your talent.
Sevilla wasteful in front of goal
A lot of underestimation of Sevilla going on
The BT Sport pundits really don't seem to rate Sevilla. They kept United entirely quiet over two legs and should have won the first, but for De Gea's magical save they would have. In the second, they were patient, waiting for United to come out of their shell... and then punished them once the space was open. A lot of people seem a little Premier League focused - it's not the only league in the world.
Can see where Ray Wilkins was coming from about Seville being a bottom 6 Premier League level side. #PunditPower— David Law (@DavidLawTennis) March 13, 2018
"I think that's the way the manager likes to play. It's very difficult watching that. There's no desire, no speed no energy abotu the team. I can't explain it. It'll be interesting to see what the manager had said. The modern game teams go to places and try to score goals.
"I don't think you can say that about Mourinho, he's more than capable at his level he's a world class manager. I don't think this players have turned up tonight, his big players were poor, Sanchez was poor, Rashford was poor. If you want to get through you need your big players to turn up and none of them were good enough tonight.
"United showed them far too much respect."
"Top teams don't pick and choose when they play."
FULL TIME! MAN UTD ARE OUT OF THE CHAMPIONS LEAGUE!
Sevilla deservedly go through to the quarter finals! That's a massive result and one entirely of Man Utd's own making. They approached this far negatively, never got into the game and will look back at this one with embarrassment.
90 mins +4
United are beaten. All over the place, they've left it too late, most of the crowd has already left. Mourinho's going to struggle to spin this one.
90 mins +2
WHAT A MISS! HOW HAS HE MISSED? Ben Yedder is completely through on goal. One on one. The defending is worse than abysmal - Mata is the last man!!!! Yedder gets one on one with De Gea, takes his time, then shoots directly at De Gea's foot. That should be game over. It already is really though.
90 mins +1
Imagine if United had tried to attack at any point during the first leg? It looks very much like they'd have at least scored once.
Pogba puts a pass straight out for a throw. That's embarrassing.
Correa is replaced now. He takes his time to leave the pitch, Mourinho has a word with the fourth official.
Correa slides into a poor challenge on Bailly from behind and then lies on his back for a while. Correa is booked and hobbles away because he's very injured from hacking Bailly. From behind.
United are on all out attack. Rashford gets a lot of power on a header but is too far from goal to challenge the goalkeeper. It's nice of Man Utd to turn up for the final 10 minutes.
Or is it all over?! Lukaku smashes in from a corner. United fans busy leaving the ground turn back to watch on. What a finish we'll have now!
Those Man Utd substitutions. I cannot believe Moutinho has left Sanchez on. He's done absolutely nothing. Mata and Martial came on for Lingard and Valencia and they've looked worse off for it.
Or do they?! Sanchez spreads the play out to the right, Mata puts the ball low to the near post for Lukaku and he shoots over from six yards!
SMAALLLLING! He has to score! He has to score there! The ball comes over from the left, it's headed on and Smalling is at the back post in space and slides in. He puts the ball wide of the goal, never threatening the goalkeeper.
OH WOW! Sevilla have a second! United have left this far too late, not approached the game with anywhere near the drive and focus needed and are, I'd say, deservedly behind. The fans are not happy.
Mourinho reacts! On comes Martial.
He's made an instant impact! Man Utd aren't awake to the danger, one well taken touch to set himself up and Ben Yedder has fired Sevilla into the lead! United need two goals now!
Pogba tries a shot from 30 something yards on his left foot and it's actually pretty close! Rico gets across to save it but let's it go.
Muriel off, Ben Yedder on.
Rashford gets a kick to the back of his leg and goes down.
Oh and look, here comes Ben Yedder. Vincenzo Montella is obviously reading this liveblog. Everyone wave at Montella. Do it now!
Rashford skips past Mercado without even really trying and is then brought down on the edge of the box. It's wide left of the goal and might be a crossing situation but Rashford is lining up.
He bends it high and wide of the far post.
Bailly is in the right place to clear a low cross into the box. Sevilla are great at their buildup play and get in attacking positions hang on a minute Pogba has almost given the ball away by his own box and he's gotten away with it again. Anyway, sorry, where was I. Oh - Pogba's given it away again at half way.
My point was that Sevilla get into the final third really well but then have absolutely no idea what to do with the ball. Ben Yedder's on the ball and if I recall FIFA 17 well, he's pretty good.
Rashford has moved over to the left, Sanchez has gone to the right.
Lukaku runs onto a chipped ball over the top and wins a corner with a smashed volley off the defender. Rashford takes the corner as an inswinger but it's headed away at the near post.
Sooner or later Sevilla are going to get another one of these on target.
Sanchez moves inside the pitch again, tries to dictate where the ball should go and then doesn't read a pass, which has to be played with pace because Sanchez is standing right next to a midfielder. He's in the wrong position, disrupting United's width and losing the ball.
Pogba is on for Fellaini, which sounds about right. A different sort of player. Fellaini was getting into some decent positions too.
Sanchez brings the ball up the pitch, doesn't play the through-ball to Lukaku that he wants, keeps going and finds Rashford to his right. Rashford steps over the ball, moves into the box and he could go down here! He's been caught! He stays on his feet and lays it to Sanchez, who toe pokes at goal and hits the defenders.
Sevilla counter quickly and are in a decent position here! The ball comes across from wide AND OH MY WORD that is incredible close to finding its way into the bottom corner. Confusion in the defence!
Here comes Pogba.
That's much better from Sanchez! He uses his close control and speed to get away from a midfielder, moves inside and finds Rashford with a pass out to the wing. Rashford looks up, sees Lukaku and tries to bend the ball ahead of him but instead puts it out for a goal kick.
United come forward after another probing Sevilla counter-attack and Young plays a clever pass inside the full-back and centre-back for Lukaku. He crosses straight into the goalkeeper's hands.
Lukaku tries to make something happen, nearly gives the ball away in a dangerous situation but recovers and bursts away from three midfielders. He crosses into the near post, Lingard controls and sets himself up! Another touch... he's too wide now! Lingard shoots and the goalkeeper gets a hand to it.
Rashford takes over, drives to the byline and smashes the ball across the box. Nobody reads it - Lukaku drops deeper to look for a cut back. Man Utd poachers are supposed to go on the hunt for the Rashford cross!
Sanchez takes the ball to feet and turns inside. He's supposed to be the left winger, Young is trapped by the halfway line and can't overlap... and that means United have no width that side. Sanchez wins a free-kick about 30 yards out.
Pogba has started warming up. He's exactly what this game needs.
WHAT A TACKLE! ROOOOAAAAAARRRRR! Correa has space in the middle of the United box, turns Rashford (why is he defending?!) and is about to shoot from inside 18 yards and Bailly flies in with a perfectly timed challenge. Brilliant recovery but United's defending was exposed too easily - that's what happens when you go on the attack at the other end! Is what Mourinho might say.
Lukaku wins a high ball, flicks it on and Lingard's touch lets him down a little. United seem to have stepped it up. They're pressing in the Sevilla half and everything.
KICK OFF 2
What should United do?
I agree with the pundits. I'd take Sanchez off and stick McTominay or Mata on to act as a bridge between Matic and the attack, move the defensive line about 15/20 yards higher up the pitch and move Rashford to the left so he can run down that wing, or possibly Lingard out there. With those two nailing it down the wings and Lukaku looking for direct passes over the Sevilla midfield (look how much of the ball those central midfielders are having!) Fellaini can do some damage. I just don't get why Sanchez keeps being given game time - he's been dreadful in every game he's played so far, giving away the ball far too often and not doing the defensive work he needs to.
The most common excuse I've heard for him is that he was out of form at Arsenal so you can't suddenly turn it on. I'm not sure I buy that. He's doing too much, with no thought behind it like a wasp charging at the same window over and again.
Paul Scholes seems sad
For a change, Paul Scholes sounds all down and old manish about Man Utd.
"You can say it's good the manager is giving him chances but he must be coming to the end of his tether with him now.
"They've got quick players in the team, use them! Smash the ball up to Lukaku and run off him!"
Rio Ferdinand is similarly unimpressed.
"It's so slow and conservative and cautious."
"I don't think Sevilla are even any good!"
Dear god please don't give us more of that. Subdued, timid, fearful... this can only get better in the second half. I hope. Please.
"Here's the highlight at half time - the players walking off," says Gary Lineker.
Fellaini is getting into better attacking positions than Lukaku at the moment. He's meant to be a holding midfielder! Rashford comes across to take a corner, it's headed away well in the six yard box and United go backwards. Fellaini must have been moved forward here because now he's the target of long balls too.
Sevilla win the ball back but Muriel's forward pass is nowhere near good enough and Valencia can easily clear.
"Possession without punch" is how Ian Darke has described Sevilla and he's dead right.
Nzonzi tries a shot that is about 20 miles over the bar.
It's getting a little feisty now! At last! United attack, Fellaini goes in hard to win the ball and leaves a Sevilla player down. He considers whether to be injured for a second or two but sees play has continued and gets up. Young crosses into the head of a defender, Lingard swings at dropped ball and swipes the defender in the shins, Valencia clashes boots with another defender and gives him a shove because he's annoyed about it.
The referee had already given a free-kick for the Lingard bit.
Great save Rico! Sanchez hits a terrible pass way too hard straight at Lukaku, who unsurprisingly can't control it. United keep the pressure up though and Fellaini is played in down the left! He's in the box! Only the goalkeeper to beat... and he smashes it at goal! Saved!
Sanchez chests the ball down on the left, cuts onto his right and then hits a... I'm honestly not sure what that is. A cross maybe? Possibly a lame effort at a shot? He's been awful for Man Utd since joining. Pogba gets slagged off to high heaven after a single mistake - Sanchez has been nowhere near good enough and seems to be avoiding the criticism.
Urgh. Sevilla are wasting a lot of chances here. And United are slow to react and close down the opposition. The crowd are restless and quiet, there's no real energy in the match...
Rashford is the most likely to make something happen here. He drops deeper, surges past one defender with his pace and then some lovely control to tap the ball onto one foot and take it forward with the other. The crowd loves it when he runs at people but don't seem to enjoy Sanchez's aimless chipped balls into the box and sloppy passing.
United are making the pitch big now. Sevilla have dropped behind the half way line as a result of the United defensive line pushing higher up too.
Sanchez gives the ball away while looking for Lingard but at least the crowd wakes up a bit since United are in the Sevilla half. Fellaini fouls Correa in the final third and they go quiet again.
Muriel goes close again!
United look woefully uninspired here.
Sanchez looks up and crosses into the area, winning a corner. Rashford comes across to take it as an outswinger from the right. Nzonzi heads away at the near post and then there's an offside.
Sanchez tracks back, cuts out a poor pass and sends a pretty shoddy one forward to Lukaku, who does really well to control it. Lukaku then spreads play out wide to Rashford who turns the volume up in the stands with some stepovers... and then a cross that doesn't really do anything.
United are sitting really deep but want to attack with a forward four. It looks pretty disjointed so far.
Fellaini almost plays his way into trouble but is able to pass back to De Gea. Old Trafford is reeeeeeally quiet. United being forced to pass around their own half near their own box. This isn't the most exciting game I've ever seen Manchester United play and the crowd seem to agree.
Sevilla have a lot of space to move into in the United half and have already had five shots at goal.
None have really threatened but United's tempo has dropped from the first five minutes already!
"They haven't got going!" says Steve McManaman. "They look very easy to play against."
Muriel is in! Bailly passes straight to the Sevilla midfield! Correa spins and plays in Muriel and he tries to bend it into the top corner but leans back and skies it. United started with real energy but are now about as cool and calm as the crowd. It's a little quiet in Old Trafford.
Sevilla have come into this now. They have the ball in the United box again but Bailly blocks a shot. Vasquez is blocked by Smalling, United pass from the back s l o w l y.
Sevilla win a corner as Vasquez knocks the ball off Valencia. It'll just take one goal to make this incredibly difficult for United... and that's close! Correa attacks at the near post and flicks a header at goal! That's a good effort and he's unlucky to put it over the bar.
A warning shot!
Lingard has the ball on the left, cuts back onto his right and is so close to finding Lukaku at the near post! Banega catches Sanchez with a "naughty challenge" (McManaman's words, not mine) and is booked. If Sevilla get through this game he misses the next one now.
Rashford stands over the set piece. It's a fair distance out... and he shoots! Hits the wall... and the goalkeeper has to dive to palm it away.
United are right up for this. Rashford has started on the right wing, Sanchez the left and Rashford gets forward into the Sevilla box and has a shot blocked. It's a high tempo start from Mourinho's side.
United have started well! A direct ball forward to Lukaku, who wins the chase and is aggressive with his pressure on Kjaer. He passes inside, the ball comes back and he has the chance to shoot from 20 yards on his right foot! Over the bar.
Man Utd get us started!
Here come the players!
Fellaini was excellent in United's last game, coming off the bench to help them get over the line against Liverpool. He's had a lot of criticism over the years but in my opinion, is one of the most useful and versatile players in the Premier League. A strong, powerful midfielder who can win aerial battles and break up play but who is also fairly adept when attacking through central areas. He rarely gives the ball away too.
He's really good.
We've found a weakness in De Gea's game
He wears contact lenses apparently.
Three top lads
The BT Sport panel have been effusing over the form of David De Gea, the best goalkeeper in the history of life.
"It's a fact. He's the best, I don't care. Top level, so quick, so sharp, his decision making is exquisite. He must be 17 points a season this guy," says Rio Ferdinand.
It's nuts how much he's improved since joining. People were calling for his head early on in his Man Utd career but look at him now. The scout who spotted him (Eric Harrison) has incredible potential spotting skills.
Pogba on the bench
As expected, Man Utd go with that 4-2-3-1 formation. Sanchez close to Lukaku.
Rico, Mercado, Kjaer, Lenglet, Escudero, N’Zonzi, Banega, Sarabia, Vasquez, Correa, Muriel
Hello! Welcome to our liveblog for tonight's match between Man Utd and Sevilla. The first leg was... what was it? Sevilla missed a whole bunch of chances, David De Gea rescued them twice and Jose Mourinho's team was fairly timid. Hmmm.
But they've come back to Old Trafford with a 0-0 draw and Mourinho knows how to win European competitions. In actual fact, that first leg performance reminded me a lot of the Fergie days - they weren't all swashbuckling football. Pragmatic, driven to get the result and cautious about giving themselves too much to do. They got the result, now they're at home. And look how nice that home looks.
The teams should be with us shortly and we can evaluate how Mourinho plans to approach this one. I'd imagine it'll be that 4-2-3-1 shape which Alexis Sanchez is turning into a 4-2-2-2 (4-2-4? too many numbers pal, help me please) and the emphasis will be on doing nothing stupid. Win the ball at halfway and punish those visiting Spaniards as often as possible on the counter-attack.
Will it work? Only football can decide! And the referee. But not the utterly useless ones who stand behind the goal. They can go in the bin.