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Manchester United’s Trophy Quest Comes Crashing Down Against Europa League Inventors

Sevilla’s quest for a record-extending sixth Europa League crown continues after LaLiga’s fourth-place finisher defeated Manchester United 2-1 on Sunday. United took an early lead through Bruno Fernandes’ customary penalty, but Sevilla overturned the deficit with goals from the unlikely duo of Suso and Luuk de Jong.

Ole Gunnar Solskjær won’t be bitterly disappointed with Champions League football already secured next season, but he’ll again lament a cutting edge in the final third after Sevilla goalkeeper Yassine “Bono” Bounou pulled off six saves. Still, there was a lot to admire from Julen Lopetegui’s side, including tireless midfield performances from the 32-year-old Éver Banega and 33-year-old Fernando.  

Things couldn’t have started better for United as the genesis of their lead was an example of the referee going against one of football’s unspoken rules. You rarely, if ever, see a defender punished for going in on an attacker after he’s fired a shot away, but referee Felix Brych was correct in his decision here. 

In the seventh minute, Marcus Rashford fired a shot in the area that was parried by Bono before getting clattered by Diego Carlos. Maybe it was the severity of Carlos’ challenge — he caught Rashford high on the shin — but the referee rightly whistled for the foul and pointed to the spot. 

Fernandes buried the spot kick in his own inimitable style. This is one of those rare penalties that’s worth re-watching.  

But one does not simply defeat Sevilla in the Europa League, and the Spanish side immediately threw numbers forward in search of an equalizer. It arrived in the 26th-minute after a surging run and cross from Sergio Reguilón was emphatically finished by Suso.

Manchester United then looked certain to reestablish its lead but Bono denied Fernandes, Rashford, Mason Greenwood, and Anthony Martial (twice) to keep Sevilla level.

That lack of finishing edge would come back to haunt United in the 78th-minute. Some tired defending from Brandon Williams afforded Jesús Navas far too much time and space to pick his cross, and De Jong ghosted between Victor Lindelöf and Aaron Wan-Bissaka for an easy finish.

It bears repeating that Manchester United has been defeated by goals from Suso and De Jong. The Spanish winger entered today’s match with two goals in 38 appearances across all competitions, while the Dutch striker had seven goals in 44 matches.

United’s season ends with three semifinal defeats — in the FA Cup, EFL Cup and now Europa League.  

The tournament continues on Monday with the other semifinal between Inter Milan and Shakhtar Donetsk. The final is scheduled for Friday, August 21, at the RheinEnergieStadion in Cologne, Germany. 

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