As Manchester United gear up for their Europa League semi-final against Sevilla, the ghost of the 2018 Champions League meeting between the pair is still lingering.
United, with Jose Mourinho in the hotseat, headed into the last-16 tie as overwhelming favourites and already had sights on the later rounds of the competition as they looked to re-establish themselves into Europe’s elite in the Portuguese manager’s ‘specialist’ tournament.
They were put back in their place in humiliating style though as, after a goalless first leg, United were stunned by substitute Wissam Ben Yedder’s double at Old Trafford in a desperately disappointing night at Old Trafford.
While Ever Banega and Sergio Escudero are the only survivors from that team compared to Julen Lopetegui’s current side, there is no doubt that Sevilla still have the weaponry necessary to cause damage to United once again.
Sportsmail takes a look back at that encounter two years ago, what similarities and differences it has with this year’s clash and how they can overcome the ghost of 2018 to climb themselves back up among Europe’s elite.
Manchester United were stunned by Sevilla at Old Trafford in the 2018 Champions League
Wissam Ben Yedder scored twice late on to inflict misery on the Red Devils in a 2-1 defeat
It was a game that showed Jose Mourinho’s Manchester United were well behind Europe’s elite
UNITED’S BIG STARS FAIL TO DELIVER AGAIN
TEAM LINEUPS AND MATCH FACTS THAT NIGHT
Man United: De Gea, Valencia (Mata 77), Bailly, Smalling, Young, Matic, Rashford, Fellaini (Pogba 60′), Lingard (Martial 77′), Sanchez, Lukaku
Scored: Lukaku (84′)
Sevilla: Rico, Mercado, Kjaer, Lenglet, Escuerdo, Banega, N’Zonzi, Sarabia, Vazquez (Pizarro 87′), Correa (Geis 89′), Muriel (Ben Yedder 72′)
Scored: Ben Yedder (74′, 78′)
Booked: Banega, Correa, Sarabia, Ben Yedder
While it was only two years ago, it was a time when United would rely on big, well-established stars on high wages to get the job done for them, a school of thought much different to the youthful side Ole Gunnar Solskjaer is now putting together.
United had secured the marquee signing of Alexis Sanchez the January that had just passed, but he was one of several stars that failed to turn up on the night.
It was a worrying trend that was forming in the post-Sir Alex Ferguson era firstly under Louis Van Gaal and then Mourinho where highly-rated players would seemingly struggle to deal with the pressure of playing for the English football giants.
Paul Pogba started on the bench behind Marouane Fellaini as his seeming troubles with Mourinho continued. The Frenchman was introduced on the hour-mark as United looked to him as a saviour, but his laboured pass straight out of play in added time seemed to sum the whole night up, and possibly his United career up to that point.
United’s goalscorer that night was Romelu Lukaku but he has moved on, Solksjaer has a much different (and happier) Pogba and Anthony Martial in his ranks compared to that night and will be hoping they can be more assertive than they were in March 2018.
Forward Alexis Sanchez had arrived at Old Trafford the January before but failed to deliver
Paul Pogba started on the bench and failed to inspire his side when he was introduced
BEN YEDDER MAKES HIMSELF THE HERO
Sevilla’s hero on the night Ben Yedder started on the bench but he scored just 87 seconds after being introduced, adding his second four minutes later to send United packing.
They were his seventh and eighth goals of a fruitful Champions League campaign for the Frenchman where he also added nine in LaLiga.
In a game where no player on either side was grabbing the tie by the scruff of the neck in the final third over either of the legs, his well-taken opener all of a sudden left United with a mountain to climb, needing two goals.
Substitute Ben Yedder was the hero on the night for Sevilla with a quickfire double
The forward got himself between defenders Eric Bailly and Chris Smalling, latched onto Pablo Sarabia’s through pass and confidently slotted past David de Gea, while he was left in acres of space to head home his second to kill the Red Devils off.
There are certainly similarities between their main man that night and the one against Wolves, Lucas Ocampos, who is in good form and is developing a similar knack of scoring important goals for the team from the south of Spain.
THE START OF DE GEA’S DECLINE?
De Gea’s issues this season have been well documented but was seen as one of the most reliable shot-stoppers in the world at this time and would go on to earn his third United Player of the Year award that summer.
It was a strong season by the Spanish No 1 but he will have been disappointed by his attempts to stop Ben Yedder’s second and it was an uncharacteristic blunder at the time.
Banega whipped a trademark corner to meet Angel Correa and then Ben Yedder — both with free headers — but the latter’s stooped effort was in range for De Gea to tip it over the bar.
Dvid de Gea had a moment to forget for Sevilla’s second which put United out of the tie
The goalkeeper got a strong hand to it but failed to make proper contact and the ball trickled over the line before his second attempt to push it away, after the confirmation of goal-line technology.
It will likely be Sergio Romero who is in between the sticks this time round as he stakes his claim to take De Gea’s spot next season, who after this moment would go on to make a high-profile mistake for Spain at the World Cup before a difficult few years for United.
It is perhaps harsh to say it was the start of his decline. He had made a memorable reflex safe to keep it 0-0 in the first leg, but the unconvincing way he flapped at the ball was something we hadn’t seen since he first joined the club.
Spanish goalkeeper got a hand to Ben Yedder’s header but his weak parry went over the line
SEVILLA THE SCOURGE OF AN ENGLISH SIDE AGAIN
SEVILLA VS ENGLISH TEAMS IN KNOCKOUT TIES
2005-06 UEFA Cup / Europa League: Middlesbrough 0-4 Sevilla (FINAL)
2006-07 UEFA Cup / Europa League: Tottenham 3-4 (agg) Sevilla (QUARTER-FINAL)
2015-16 UEFA Cup / Europa League: Liverpool 1-3 Sevilla (FINAL)
2016-17 Champions League: Leicester City 3-2 (agg) Sevilla (ROUND OF 16)
2017-18 Champions League: Manchester United 1-2 (agg) Sevilla (ROUND OF 16)
2019-20 UEFA Cup / Europa League: Wolves 0-1 Sevilla (QUARTER-FINAL)
Sevilla are the Europa League’s record winners (5) but have also emerged as a true bogey side for English clubs in European knock-out rounds.
In a record that started when they beat Middlesbrough in the then UEFA Cup Final in 2005-06, Sevilla have knocked an English side out of Europe in five out of six match-ups, with the most recent being Tuesday’s defeat of Wolves.
Before their upset at Old Trafford, they had broken the hearts of Liverpool by beating them 3-1 in the final of Europe’s secondary competition, and Leicester City’s 3-2 aggregate win over them in the 2017 Champions League is the only blot on that record.
Out of all those victories there is no doubt that 2018 was the least expected, with United seemingly too strong for a side who finished a modest seventh in LaLiga that campaign.
Manager at the time Vincenzo Montella was the second of three different men in charge that season, as the club continued to have difficulty finding their style in the post-Unai Emery era. Their continued success in European competitions often masked this.
Sevilla are a much stronger outfit this time round, finishing fourth and level on points with Atletico Madrid. There is a different look to the side but the same can be said for United. Sunday’s clash for a place in the final is certainly a must-watch.
After this game firmly showed Mourinho’s Man United had a long way to go to compete with Europe’s best teams, does this year’s semi-final, albeit in the Europa League, show that Solskjaer’s Red Devils are ready to join the party once more?
It was the fourth time in five match-ups that Sevilla have knocked an English side out of Europe
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