How Sevilla Europa League tie fits into 2022/23 schedule
Manchester United have played an unholy number of games this season due to their deep cup runs. Having already won the Carabao Cup, they have got 11 Premier League games still to play, at least one more FA Cup match, and now two fixtures against Sevilla.
Erik ten Hag has been trying to balance his squad through the games as best he can. With a tricky set of domestic fixtures up next, United will need to find a way to take as many points as possible while also getting through their quarter-final tie.
Here’s how Man Utd’s fixtures shape up over the next month or so ahead of the tie against Sevilla, a side that has knocked them out of European competition twice before.
United have a tough run of Premier League games coming up but first need to try to beat a talented Fulham side in the quarter-final of the FA Cup.
The game at Newcastle will be a big one when it comes to the battle for the top four and a home game against Brentford will also be very tough, especially with the memory of the 4-0 defeat lingering for United players.
It seems a home game against Sean Dyche’s Everton will be the last domestic exploit before welcoming Sevilla to Old Trafford for the first leg. United then go away to Nottingham Forest in the Premier League before travelling back to Seville for the second time this season to play the second leg.
Ten Hag may want the tie wrapped up by then given the next game will be against Chelsea.
Man Utd’s fixture list with Sevilla UEL quarter finals
The two sides have only met in three competitive games, but the record does not bode very well for the Premier League side.
A 0-0 draw and a 2-1 loss at Old Trafford in the Champions League quarter-final in 2018 sent United and Jose Mourinho out. Ole Gunnar Solskjaer then fell foul of Sevilla in the Europa League in a semi-final in 2020, losing 2-1.
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Whether it’s needless red cards, dramatically changing a fanbase’s opinion or the distribution of house keys, Granit Xhaka knows what he’s talking about.
The wily Swiss midfielder also has some pearls of wisdom regarding continental competition. “European football is totally different than the Premier League,” Xhaka declared with characteristic bluntness.
Arsenal may be riding high at the top of the Premier League, which ranks as the best in the world according to UEFA’s coefficient (and every Sky Sports advert), but they were dumped out of the Europe League, Europe’s secondary club competition, in the round of 16 by Sporting CP – one of Portugal’s so-called Big Three which currently sits fourth in the top flight.
With qualification for next season’s Champions League a formality, here’s why Arsenal could face a rude awakening on their return to Europe’s top table.
The Gunners have been all about consistency in terms of Premier League personnel this season. Eight Arsenal players have featured in at least 80% of the team’s league minutes this season. No other top-flight club in England has as many regulars.
Title rivals Manchester City only have three players with so much game time and Chelsea, the only other English side left in the Champions League, have just one player that has completed such a large share of minutes.
The revered Soviet coach Valeriy Lobanovskyi preached that the quality of the connections between players was more important than the ability of the individuals. This is borne out when Mikel Arteta deviates from his regular lineup, forming new partnerships which have had little time to develop and robbing his side of the normal fluency which has led them to the Premier League summit.
After the Gunners bowed out of the Europa League last 16 on penalties to Sporting following a 3-3 aggregate draw, Arteta bemoaned: “We didn’t find our rhythm and flow, allowed too many spaces, didn’t dominate and gave the ball away many times.”
After each week of watching Arsenal win with a scarcely unchanged team, opponents are no longer surprised by Arteta’s approach and have begun to form a blueprint of frustration by sitting deep and waiting to spring forward on the counter.
“You can see that every team is playing different against us; they are dropping a lot,” Xhaka said in February, “but this is [what happens] when you are top of the league.”
In Europe, teams are versatile enough to form a compact rearguard but also jump into a press, as Sporting demonstrated by repeatedly knocking Arsenal out of their stride.
“We gave every single ball away and we didn’t have the capacity to dominate the game and take the game where we wanted,” Arteta fretted after Sporting knocked the Gunners out. “We gave away the ball consistently and that created a really open transition game that we didn’t want to play.”
With a relatively thin squad at his disposal, Arteta is limited to a very good, but not perfect Plan A. One glance at how north London rivals Tottenham fared when sticking to Antonio Conte’s dogmatic approach should be enough of a warning to think about some alternative strategies.
Arteta has taken charge of just 24 European matches as a manager, all of which have come in the decidedly second-tier Europa League. During his playing days, Arteta appeared in 31 Champions League matches but only four of those were knockout ties and he never once progressed beyond the round of 16.
In Arsenal’s current squad, only January arrival Jorginho has won the competition. The European Championship winner has also made the most appearances in the tournament among Arsenal’s current contingent with Gabriel Jesus, Thomas Partey and Oleksandr Zinchenko – who started the final Manchester City lost to Jorginho’s Chelsea in 2021 – next in terms of experience.
However, Arsenal’s three leading scorers this season – Bukayo Saka, Gabriel Martinelli and Martin Odegaard – have made two Champions League appearances between them.
Xhaka is the only player that appeared in Arsenal’s most recent Champions League match who is still at the club. Bayern Munich romped to a 5-1 win at the Emirates in 2017, condemning the Gunners to a humiliating 10-2 aggregate defeat and the club’s seventh consecutive exit in the round of 16.
No team in this season’s Europa League underperformed their expected goals by a larger margin than Arsenal, with the Gunners scoring just ten goals from chances that, on average, would warrant between 15 and 16 (per FBref). Arsenal had a worse conversion rate than Qarabag, Ludogorets and AEK Larnaka.
That lack of clinical edge was particularly costly in the second leg against Sporting. “We created three big chances and didn’t score,” Arteta lamented at the end of the tie.
The rest of Arsenal’s campaign will be solely focused on ending the club’s 19-year wait for a Premier League title, bringing greater “clarity” to the season as Arteta put it. However, when the season comes to a close and minds are allowed to wander to European nights that don’t take place on a Thursday, Arteta and his players have reason to be a little wary – whether they enter the competition as Premier League champions or not.
Man Utd’s troubled history with Sevilla
Manchester United have been drawn with Sevilla in the quarter-finals of this season’s UEFA Europa League.
If the Red Devils are to claim European silverware this season, they must go through the most successful team in the history of this competition.
United have only met the Andalusian side in two previous competitive ties, but both had quite seismic ramifications at Old Trafford.
Let’s dive into the short but colourful history between United and Sevilla.
The first meetings between United and Sevilla came in the last 16 of the 2017/18 UEFA Champions League.
After drawing the first leg 0-0 at the Ramon Sanchez Pizjuan, United were strong favourites to bury their Spanish opponents back in England.
But Sevilla refused to stick to the script. Wissam Ben Yedder scored two late goals to fire the visitors into an unassailable lead. Old Trafford was stunned, and not even a consolation from Romelu Lukaku could lift spirits enough to mount a comeback.
Then-manager Jose Mourinho was expected to lead United into the latter stages of the competition and faced questions in the days following this shock elimination. But in typical Mourinho fashion, he defended himself and turned blame back towards the club in a 12-minute monologue.
You can read the full transcript/watch the madness below to entertain yourself, or scroll all the way down/click the next header on the table of contents to move onto United’s most recent battle with Sevilla. Your call, but it’s well worth a read or listen.
“I say to the fans that the fans are the fans and have the right to their opinions and reactions but there is something that I used to call ‘football heritage’. I don’t know if, I try to translate from my Portuguese, which is almost perfect, to my English, which is far from perfect – ‘football heritage’, what a manager inherits,” Mourinho began.
“It is something like the last time Manchester United won the Champions League, which didn’t happen a lot of times, was in 2008. Since 2011: 2012, out in the group phase, the group was almost the same group as we had this season – Benfica, Basel and [Otelul] Galati from Romania. Out in the group phase.
“In 2013, out at Old Trafford in the last 16, I was on the other bench. In 2014, out in the quarter-final. In 2015, no European football. In 2016, comes back to European football, out in the group phase, goes to Europa League and on the second knockout out of the Europa League. In 2017, play Europa League, win Europa League – with me – and goes back to Champions League. In 2018, win the group phase with 15 points out of a possible 18 and loses at home in the last 16.
“So, in seven years with four different managers, once not qualify for Europe, twice out in the group phase and the best was the quarter-final. This is football heritage.
“If you want to go to the Premier League, the last victory was 2012-13 and in the four consecutive seasons United finish fourth, fifth, sixth and seventh. So in the last four years, the best was fourth. This is football heritage. It means that when you start the process you are here, you are there or you are there, is heritage.
“And if the fans that I will always respect – always respect – if the fans and many of them are the ones you speak with, many of them are the ones I speak with, and I am very lucky. The ones who speak with you are very disappointed and the ones I speak with know what is football heritage, what is a process and when I arrive.
“When I arrived in Real Madrid, do you know how many players had played in the quarter-final of the Champions League? Xabi Alonso with Liverpool, Iker Casillas with Real Madrid and Cristiano Ronaldo with Manchester United. All the others not even a quarter-final. That’s football heritage.
“Those stats are real. I give you a couple more real, in the last seven years the worst position of Manchester City in the Premier League was fourth. In the last seven years Manchester City were champions twice and if you want to say three times, they were second twice. That’s heritage.
“Do you know what is also heritage? Is that [Nicolas] Otamendi, Kevin De Bruyne, Fernandinho, [David] Silva, [Raheem] Sterling, [Sergio] Aguero, they are investments from the past, not from the last two years.
“Do you know how many of United players that left the club last season? See where they play, how they play, if they play. That’s football heritage.
“One day when I leave the next Manchester United manager will find here [Romelu] Lukaku, [Nemanja] Matic, of course [David] De Gea from many years ago, they will find players with a different mentality, different quality, different background, with a different status, know-how.
“For some reason you go to the Champions League quarter-final like today and there are four clubs that are always there, always there. Barcelona is always there in the past seven, eight years, Real Madrid, Juventus, Bayern Munich and then of course appear now and again, another club like my Inter, like some other clubs like Monaco last season, but the ones that are always there is for some reason.
“The good thing for me and the amazing feeling for me is that I am exactly on the same page as the owners, as Mr [Ed] Woodward, Mr [Richard] Arnold, we are on exactly the same page, we agree on everything, on the investments, that we have what we have, the investments that we are going to do will be season after season, we are exactly on the same page, so life is good. I have an amazing job to do.
“Yesterday I met a new person we have working in the club in a different area that came from another club and I ask ‘why did you decide to come?’ The person told me I did a fantastic job in another club and at this club I have a huge job and I come for the challenge.
“Well done, my decision was based on the same thing. I could be in another country with the league in the pocket, the kind of league you win before it even starts, but I am here and I am going to be here and no way am I going to change my mentality.
“I don’t know if you know the expression but there is a code that I like – ‘every wall is a door’. I am not going to run away or disappear or to cry because I heard a few boos, I’m not going to disappear from the tunnel, running immediately, the next match I will be the first to go out. I respect the fans, I am not afraid of my responsibilities.
“When I was 20, I was nobody in football, I was somebody’s son, with a lot of pride.
“Now with 55 I am what I am, I did what I did, because of work and because of talent and my mentality. So they can be together.
“I understand that for many, many, many years was really, really hard for the people who don’t like me – ‘here he is again, here he wins again.’ For 10 months I win nothing, the last title that I won was 10 months ago, I beat Liverpool, Chelsea, I lose against Sevilla and now is their moment to be happy.
“I learned that in my religious formation, be happy with others’ happiness, even if the others are your enemies, so be it.
“I am a very lucky guy and I’m really happy to be what I am.”
If you read or watched Mourinho’s rant, well done. You deserve a nice, long shower. This section won’t be as long, don’t worry.
The coronavirus pandemic meant that the 2019/20 Europa League was finished behind closed doors in Germany, with all games from the quarter-finals onwards taking place following the conclusion of domestic seasons.
United struggled past Danish side Copenhagen to set up a semi-final with Sevilla, who only just got the better of Nuno Espirito Santo’s Wolves.
Bruno Fernandes gave the Red Devils an early lead from the spot (as was customary during lockdown), but Suso equalised midway through the first half.
Luuk de Jong scored a late winner for Sevilla, who had Morocco goalkeeper Bono to thank after continually keeping out the likes of Fernandes, Anthony Martial, Marcus Rashford and Paul Pogba.
Can United avenge these losses in this season’s Europa League?
On this edition of The Promised Land, part of the 90min podcast network, Scott Saunders and Rob Blanchette discuss Sir Jim Ratcliffe’s meeting with Man Utd, the FA Cup tie with Fulham, reported interest in Jude Bellingham and more. If you can’t see this embed, click here to listen to the podcast!
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