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!
Jonas Eidevall hails dominant Stina Blackstenius performance in north London derby victory
Arsenal manager Jonas Eidevall has heaped praise on forward Stina Blackstenius after her sensational showing in Saturday’s 5-1 victory over Tottenham.
The Swede opened the scoring after just a few minutes and continued to lead the line with real dominance all game, creating plenty of chances for those around her in what turned out to be a comfortable victory.
Blackstenius’ performance did not go unnoticed by Eidevall, who took the time to praise the forward after the game.
“Every game poses different challenges, but Stina gave exactly what we needed at the start of the game by posing a threat from balls in-behind against a very compact Spurs’ team,” Eidevall told Sky Sports.
“I think it was very nice to see her take the first finish on her first touch when she first spots the goalkeeper a little bit out of position.”
On the wider performance, Eidevall continued: “I was very pleased with the performance. There are still some aspects of our game we need to get better at compared to the first half. I think our players were brilliant and were very well positioned in the second half. I think we could have controlled the game right from the start.
“I think it starts with the way we attack. We were well positioned. I think we constantly overloaded them out in the wide areas and set up players that can play forward with the ball. We are good at arriving into the box with pace. In the first half and the last ten minutes, we got a little bit complacent and a bit of standing still which suits Spurs’ really well. We didn’t get into that trap in the second-half and that was pleasing.”
The win keeps Arsenal in the WSL title race, moving the Gunners up to 35 points, two behind leaders Chelsea having played a game more.
Emma Hayes’ Blues are in action on Sunday against fellow title hopefuls Manchester City, who can blow the title race wide open with a win.
Why do Liverpool fans boo the England national anthem?
Few managers of the modern era have developed a bond with their club’s fanbase as strong as the link between Jurgen Klopp and Liverpool.
A rapidly stacked trophy cabinet has obviously helped Klopp win over Merseyside but the humble and honest German coach has forged such a deep connection with the people of Liverpool by taking time to understand the history and beliefs of the city.
However, even Klopp was left a little perplexed by the deafening swell of boos which his supporters delivered in response to the English national anthem ahead of the 2022 FA Cup final.
“I know our people that well that they wouldn’t do it if there was no reason for it,” Klopp reasoned, before admitting: “And I’m not here surely not long enough to understand the reason for it.”
Don’t worry, Jurgen, we’ve got you covered.
As a port city which has welcomed countless immigrants over the years, many Liverpudlians have an ancestral reason to not consider themselves English. The xenophobia and racism which remains a plague on these shores are not exactly a set of welcoming, open arms.
The term ‘Scouse’, which is a traditional stew, was originally used as a derogatory term for Irish immigrants that could only afford to frequent soup kitchens. But the city’s inhabitants have harnessed the slur and the sense of otherness it was meant to hold.
Engraved in in the wall of the Museum of Liverpool is a quote from the former Gronby councillor Margaret Simey in 1999 which reads: “The magic of Liverpool is that it isn’t England.”
Liverpool’s port points west, which was particularly unhelpful during the 1980s when trade with Europe on the other side of the Isles was being prioritised. Naturally, this only stoked the flames of a dire relationship between Liverpool and the British government.
“Never Trust A Tory” is another common banner which can been seen circulating the Liverpool end on trips to Wembley.
This distrust has only festered over the last decade of Conservative rule. Labour – the more left-wing opposition in England to the Conservatives – have not had a prime minister in power since Gordon Brown in 2010.
Unlike the rest of the country, Liverpool have not given in to the blue invasion. The Labour Party has received more than 50% of the city’s votes in every general election between 1992 and 2019.
This unwavering favouring of Labour came immediately after Margaret Thatcher’s unpopular reign as Conservative party leader and prime minister. Thatcher’s Chancellor Sir Geoffrey Howe argued that Liverpool should be left to “managed decline”, as revealed by cabinet papers from the era which fed the distrust of that regime on Merseyside. In the wake of the Toxteth Riots, Howe urged Thatcher “not to over-commit scarce resources to Liverpool”.
The Conservatives and Thatcher were also in power at the time of the Hillsborough disaster and their handling of the situation, over a course of a decades-long quest for justice, also enraged a wounded city and its people.
The Tory hatred wasn’t always so suffocating. When the Iron Lady became prime minister in 1979, Sir Malcolm Thornton was first elected as Conservative MP for Liverpool Garston.
However, the distrust very much extends to the modern era as Boris Johnson, when prime minister, was asked to apologise for publishing an article in the Spectator which accused Liverpudlians of “wallowing” in their “victim status” while he was the publication’s editor in 2004. Shockingly, he did not offer a sorry amid his blustering response.
At Liverpool’s first FA Cup final triumph in 1965, the travelling Merseyside support belted out “God Save Our Gracious Team”. For many reasons, Liverpool fans have opted for a blunter approach over the subsequent years.
Reece James withdraws from England squad due to ‘ongoing issue’
Reece James has left the England camp and returned to Chelsea due to an ‘ongoing issue’.
The right-back was expected to start Sunday’s Euro 2024 qualifier against Ukraine at Wembley after Kyle Walker played all 90 minutes of Thursday’s 2-1 win away at Italy. But James has failed to prove his fitness and will reconvene with Chelsea at their Cobham training base.
A statement from England read: “Reece James has withdrawn from the England squad and will not feature against Ukraine on Sunday.
“The full-back has returned to Chelsea for assessment on an ongoing issue.
“No replacements are planned as Gareth Southgate’s squad, including the suspended Luke Shaw, continue their preparations at Tottenham Hotspur Training Ground.”
Though James’ fitness record is patchy and he was suffering with a hamstring injury earlier this month, he joined up with the England squad this week having played 90 minutes in two of Chelsea’s final three games before the international break and was expected to be fit and healthy.
He came on as an 85th-minute substitute on Thursday for Bukayo Saka as 10-man England sought to hold onto their lead.
James missed England’s 2022 FIFA World Cup campaign after sustaining a knee injury in the autumn.
Chelsea will be hoping that James’ problem isn’t serious ahead of a busy month that sees them face the likes of Arsenal, Liverpool and Real Madrid.
James has already missed 17 games for Chelsea this season – 15 for his knee problem, one for a hamstring issue and one because of illness.
Prior to this season, James has been reported as to having nine other injuries during his time in the Chelsea senior setup, missing a total of 51 matches for the Blues.
On this edition of Son of Chelsea, part of the 90min podcast network, Daniel Childs reviews Chelsea’s 2-2 draw with Everton & Graham Potter’s performance. If you can’t see this embed, click here to listen to the podcast!
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