Tactical Analysis: – Manchester United v Sevilla

manchester united, mourinho
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Manchester United have been knocked out of the Champions League at the hands of Sevilla. The Red Devils lost the second leg 1-2 against the Spanish side to go out on aggregate. The first leg was a 0-0 draw in Seville and so the second leg was all about “winner takes all” situation. We will tactically analyse the game and pick out moments where United got it wrong. In addition, we will also analyse how well Sevilla played to knock Mourinho’s men out.

Analysis: –

manchester united v sevilla

As we can see in the starting lineup, Mourinho set out his team which surprised many. The Portuguese replaced Scott McTominay with Marouane Fellaini in that central midfield role. In addition, Marcus Rashford, who reveled on the left wing against Liverpool, was made to play on the right. The bewilderment was because Manchester United had two defensive midfielders of similar type playing in a home game against Sevilla. (with all due respect, Sevilla are not one of the big boys).

First Half: –

At the beginning, United did try to push forward but Sevilla were comfortable in defending. This was partly due to the home side not having a defence-opening passer in the midfield, so the away defence were happy to defend the front four. Even though Fellaini and Matic had time on the ball, they were not very creative as it is not their trade to be.

We all know Mourinho’s team don’t press high and it pretty much played into the hands of Sevilla. They were comfortable on the ball, likes of Steven N’Zonzi and Ever Banega took control in midfield. They had time on the ball and even though they didn’t create much, the game was in balance throughout.

manchester united v sevilla

If you see in the image above, this was the heat-map of both midfields at the end of the first half. It clearly depicts how much domination N’Zonzi and Banega had over Matic and Fellaini. The part of this narrative was that that the United due were defence first midfielders where as Sevilla duo were more authoritative on the ball and also doing the shielding job.

Even though both attacks didn’t produce much in the first half, the game was edging towards a stage where the away side were beginning to feel confident. The other good thing which they did throughout the game was to nullify United’s route one strategy.

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manchester united v sevilla

We all know N’Zonzi is a very good physical presence in the midfield for Sevilla. Vincenzo Montella was clever in deploying the Frenchman to deal with the first header and allow his back four to be in shape. So when either of Lukaku or Fellaini are going for the first header, N’Zonzi is doing well to stop them. Even if he is not able to prevent the first header, he knows he has defenders behind him protecting the second balls. A thing which Sevilla might have learnt after United’s successful application of the tactic against Liverpool.

This was the main reason of United struggling to have a hold of the ball in attacking areas. They were just not ready to play out from the back and build play through midfield. But, the demand from them was to play and press high to put Sevilla under pressure. Doing the opposite enabled the Spanish side to get comfortable in the game.

Second Half: –

This was the time in the game when the away side were filled with optimism, Old Trafford was getting twitchy minute by minute. The first 15 minutes of this half was again about United struggling to string passes together and Sevilla gaining more confidence. Around the hour mark or few minutes after that, Montella realised this game is up for the taking. He brought on the in-form striker Wissam Ben Yedder to take the game to Manchester United.

manchester united v sevilla

manchester united v sevilla


He opened the scoring on the night with his third touch. As shown in the above images, there are two phases to this goal. First is Chris Smalling being hesitant whether to go up and press the number 10 who passed the ball to the striker, or stay in his position. In the end, he was caught in no man’s land.

Secondly, Ben Yedder’s quick movement to get the ball towards the open space did Eric Bailly in. The defender couldn’t cope with that movement and the amount space was plenty for the striker. It was a good goal but Smalling’s quick decision-making may have helped in preventing it.

manchester united v sevilla

Soon after the first goal, second goal was scored to kill the tie. The corner was played towards the near post and as we can see in the above image, Correa is free to attack that ball. There are 5 Manchester United defenders just watching that unravel in a static position. Once the flick on was made, Ben Yedder was quick to pounce on that despite close attentions from Ashley Young. At 2-0 up, Sevilla were home and dry.

Now, we shall just check out the heat-maps from both team’s midfield at the end of the game. This will tell us how United got annihilated in midfield again. It has happened before against Spurs, Chelsea, Manchester City, etc. in the league.

manchester united

manchester united v sevilla

The Manchester United heat-map includes the touches from Paul Pogba who came on after an hour mark. In contrast, the Sevilla heat-map is of two midfielders N’Zonzi and Banega who had a field day at Old Trafford. Something you must not expect as a home fan in red part of Manchester.

Overview of the Game: – 

We always say “may the best team win.” Well, it proved to be the case in this tie. Sevilla were way better than Manchester United over the course of 180 minutes. It was David de Gea who kept United in the game with crucial saves at Seville. Coming to Old Trafford, having beaten their rivals three days before, putting such a pathetic performance, just doesn’t add up. Mourinho’s tactics and game-plan were very naive.

He went out to defend against a Sevilla team who came with the same mindset into this game. It meant the Red Devils had to take the initiative but failed to do so. Maybe they are not set up that way to take initiatives in games and go to the next level.


Article by Mizgan,

Twitter – @mizgans

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