Sevilla wrecked Manchester United’s hopes of ending the season with silverware as they edged a hard-fought Europa League semi-final in Cologne.
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s side lost their third semi-final this season despite taking the lead when Bruno Fernandes scored their 22nd penalty of the season after Marcus Rashford was fouled by Diego Carlos.
Sevilla, Europa League specialists, equalised before the interval when former Liverpool forward Suso swept a finish past David de Gea at the far post.
United’s fate was sealed when they missed a succession of chances early in the second half as Sevilla keeper Yassine Bounou emerged as the hero, denying Anthony Martial several times.
And Sevilla, who saw off Wolves in the quarter-final, secured their place in the final when Luuk de Jong swept home a cross from Jesus Navas with 12 minutes left, United punished for poor defending which led to recriminations as Fernandes confronted Victor Lindelof in the aftermath.
Profligate Man Utd pay the price
Manchester United’s long season came to a bitterly disappointing conclusion as they missed out on the chance to lift their first trophy since they won this tournament under Jose Mourinho more than three years ago.
And they have only themselves to blame for a lack of killer instinct in front of goal, especially in that opening phase of the second half when Bounou denied them, especially Martial, but United simply had to take one of those chances.
It left Sevilla in the game and, as this talented side have proved before, they are experts at finding a way to win in the Europa League.
And so it proved with De Jong’s late goal, helped by awful United defending as they switched off from Navas’ cross, with Lindelof and Aaron Wan-Bissaka culpable.
United could not respond as they looked heavy legged, Solskjaer waiting until late on before introducing a raft of chances more in hope than expectation.
Man Utd triple failure shows flaws
Manchester United rescued their season in the second half of the campaign, fuelled by the signing of Fernandes, but losing three semi-finals in a single term is a poor effort.
Solskjaer’s season has finished respectability with a third-placed finish in the Premier League but weaknesses were exposed by the loss to Manchester City in the EFL Cup semi-final, Chelsea in the FA Cup and now this defeat by Sevilla.
It will no doubt strengthen Solskjaer’s hand as he demands high-class additions in the transfer window but does nothing to disguise the disappointment or the fact that, when the pressure was really on in the big cup games this season, they failed to deliver.
Man of the match – Yassine Bounou
- Sevilla have reached their sixth Uefa Cup/Europa League final, at least two more than any other side.
- Manchester United have now been eliminated from European competition by Spanish opposition for the third consecutive campaign.
- Sevilla are now unbeaten in 20 games, just the fourth different side within Europe’s top five leagues this season to enjoy such a run (also Bayern Munich, Paris St-Germain and Real Madrid).
- Including both their quarter-final victory over FC Copenhagen and their match with Sevilla, Manchester United had 46 shots, with 21 hitting the target – however, the Red Devils have managed just two goals from the penalty spot in those matches with a conversion rate of 4.4%.
- Manchester United have been awarded 22 penalties in all competitions this season, the most by a side in a single campaign within Europe’s top five leagues since Barcelona in 2015-16 (24).
- Since his Manchester United debut on 1 February, only Robert Lewandowski (28) and Lionel Messi (27) have had a direct hand in more goals in all competitions than Bruno Fernandes (20 – 12 goals, eight assists) within Europe’s top five leagues.
- Bruno Fernandes has scored 100% of the 14 penalties he has taken in all competitions this season, netting six for Sporting Lisbon.