Manchester United lost a two-goal lead in the first leg of their Europa League quarterfinal against Sevilla, resulting in a 2-2 draw at Old Trafford.
Erik ten Hag’s side seemed to be in charge of their Europa League fate after two goals from Marcel Sabitzer in the first 20 minutes, but late own goals from Tyrell Malacia and substitute Harry Maguire ensure Man United will have to work hard in Spain next week to secure a spot in the semifinals.
Raphael Varane and Lisandro Martinez were both injured for Manchester United, with the Argentinian limping out in the second half with an apparent foot injury.
- Man United’s poor performance makes the Europa League more difficult.
With Manchester United in command for so long, some United supporters will have been watching the score of the game between Juventus and Sporting Lisbon to see where they would be headed for the semifinals. That is, until Sevilla struck twice in the closing six minutes to put United on the back foot heading into the second leg next week in Spain.
Sevilla are just five points clear of the LaLiga relegation zone, and for the most of the night, Manchester United asserted themselves with the dominating performance most anticipated. Sabitzer scored twice in the first 20 minutes, but the third goal that would have broken the tie never arrived.
Sevilla were able to fight back nearly from the start courtesy to two own goals, the first from Malacia and the second by Maguire. As if that wasn’t enough, Ten Hag was forced to replace Varane at halftime and saw his center-back partner Martinez get stretchered off with a foot injury.
To make things worse, Bruno Fernandes will be unavailable for the return leg in Spain due to a booking that will result in his suspension.
United should have had an easy night, but they now have to battle hard for their spot in the semifinals.
- Sabitzer makes a compelling argument for staying.
Christian Eriksen’s ankle injury prevented United from signing Sabitzer on loan from Bayern Munich in January, but the Austrian midfielder is keen to remain. Sabitzer’s contract with Bayern does not include a permanent option, therefore he will return to Germany at the conclusion of the season. With a few more performances like this, he has a good chance of staying at Old Trafford.
Sabitzer scored twice in the opening 20 minutes while playing in a more forward position versus Sevilla, both times racing past the Sevilla defenders to come on the end of passes from midfielders, first Fernandes and then Anthony Martial.
United are aiming to improve their midfield in the summer, and they are keeping an eye on Frenkie De Jong while also keeping an eye on Jude Bellingham’s position at Borussia Dortmund. Sabitzer, on the other hand, is a more cheaper choice, and Ten Hag already knows that he can fit into his system.
Sabitzer’s flexibility is also a plus, as he demonstrated against Sevilla that he is as at home in the No. 10 position behind the striker as he is at No. 8 or No. 6.
- Martial steps in to fill the vacuum created by Rashford’s injury.
It’s a setback for Ten Hag that Marcus Rashford will miss time after scoring roughly a third of United’s goals this season, but it won’t be nearly as devastating if Martial can remain healthy.
When he has played, the Frenchman has been excellent; he simply hasn’t been available for long enough this season. His start against Sevilla, where he spent the second part of last season on loan, was just his tenth of the season. Martial was also making his first appearance in three months.
But Ten Hag is a fan of what Martial contributes, and in Rashford’s absence, he demonstrated why.
Martial assisted Sabitzer’s first goal, bringing the ball back into midfield from a tight area on the right, and then set up Sabitzer’s second goal with a superbly weighted pass past Sevilla’s defenders.
Ten Hag’s strongest XI includes Martial, and the Dutchman said this week that United have played their greatest football when he has been healthy and available. It bodes well for a vital run-in, in which Martial might play a significant role as Rashford recovers. He played well against Sevilla, but the most important thing was that he was able to play 60 minutes and come out unhurt.
Ten Hag benefited from Martial’s effort, but Sevilla’s two late goals dimmed any bright spots.