Manchester United Out Of Europa League
Manchester United’s season is over after more than a year and 61 games, and so too is English football’s involvement in Europe.
United were the last ones standing and they were still level in their Europa League semi-final with Sevilla at the RheinEnergie Stadion on Sunday night until the 78th minute.
It was harsh on United who had taken an early lead from Bruno Fernandes’s penalty only to concede an equaliser midway through the first half to Suso.
They were just about the better team and certainly created the better chances against the Europa League specialists from Seville who have won this competition five times in the last 16 years and are now unbeaten in 20 games.
The Spaniards advance to the final here on Friday against either Inter Milan and or Shakhtar Donetsk and United will have the briefest of rests at the end of a marathon season.
Suso (centre) was mobbed by his team-mates after netting the equaliser following superb work from full back Sergio Reguilon
United’s players had appealed to the referee after replays showed a throw-in during the build-up should have gone their way
This was a more open affair than their quarter-final win over FC Copenhagen, albeit one that became increasingly bad-tempered both on the pitch and the sidelines where the protestations of both teams echoed around the empty 50,000-seater arena.
Solskjaer had stressed the importance of the first goal and it took Fernandes less than eight minutes to provide it.
It came from the penalty spot, not surprisingly in a season that has seen United awarded 22 of them. Marcus Rashford played the ball into Anthony Martial who had his back to goal and cleverly dragged the ball 180 degrees into the path of his team-mate.
Rashford should really have beaten goalkeeper Yassine Bounou who blocked his attempt at close-range, but Diego Carlos’s sliding tackle took out United’s No 10 after the ball had gone.
It’s the kind of challenge that is penalised everywhere else on the pitch though not necessarily in the penalty box, but German referee Felix Brych pointed to the spot and Fernandes stepped up to score. Of course he did.
The Old Trafford giants took an early lead on nine minutes in Cologne and capitalised on Carlos’ rash challenge from 12 yardsFernandes’ spot kick hurtled into the top-right corner to continue the Portuguese playmaker’s superb start to life with United
It’s four-and-a-half years since the Portuguese playmaker last missed one.
This was his eighth in eight attempts since arriving at Old Trafford in January, following his decisive effort from the spot in last week’s quarter-final win over FC Copenhagen, and 14th for United and Sporting Lisbon this season.
First the usual stutter-step approach and this time a clinical finish high into the top corner.
At that stage, United looked brighter than they did against Copenhagen and Fred skewed a shot wide from Fernandes’ pass after winning the ball off Joan Jordan near halfway.
We had reached the 15th minute before De Gea was called into action for the first time, blocking a shot at his near post from Lucas Ocampos, whose header gave the Spaniards a late win over Wolves in the quarters.
Sevilla goalkeeper Yassine Bounou made a string of superb stops as United pushed for the lead immediately after half-timeOle Gunnar Solskjaer was left frustrated after his team’s bright start faded away with both clubs battling for a spot in the final
But United switched off in the 23rd minute and were ruthlessly punished. Aaron Wan-Bissaka was at fault for losing track of Sergio Reguilon who broke forward from his own half and raced onto a pass from Ocampos.
He spotted Suso unmarked at the far post and crossed beyond Harry Maguire and Williams to Sevilla’s No 41 who swept the ball inside De Gea’s near post. United were unhappy that a throw-in was awarded against them at the start of the move — and with some justification after replays showed that the ball brushed Jules Kounde’s hair before going out — but it was no excuse for losing concentration.
They rallied before half-time with Martial curling one effort over and Bounou beating away Rashford’s blockbuster free kick from 30 yards, but the game was becoming increasingly fractious.
Williams and Diego Carlos were already in the book and when Youssef En-Nesyri went down theatrically under a challenge from Maguire, Solskjaer told Julen Lopetegui to pipe down when the Sevilla coach and his excitable bench claimed that United’s captain had used his forearm.
Paul Pogba attempted to take on both Fernando and Carlos with United looking to restore their foothold in the midfield tussle
Williams responded by making a meal of En-Nesyri’s challenge on him moments later as the half came to a tetchy conclusion.
United threatened again soon after the restart, Boubou saving from Martial and Fernando blocking Rashford’s follow-up effort.
But feelings continued to run high and boiled over again when Sevilla claimed that Jordan’s free kick hit Fernandes on the arm.
Once again there were fierce protestations from the Sevilla bench as they screamed for VAR to check the incident.
But it was the Spaniards who had the final say, much to United’s irritation, as De Jong made the breakthrough. The Dutchman couldn’t score in 12 appearances on loan at Newcastle in 2014 but his solitary effort was enough.