UEFA's Technical Observer Panel analyses Manchester United and Sevilla's 2-2 draw in their UEFA Europa League quarter-final opener at Old Trafford.
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Leading 2-0 after 21 minutes thanks to a Marcel Sabitzer double, Manchester United looked set for a first win in four meetings with Sevilla – and a strong start to their UEFA Europa League quarter-final tie. However, the six-time competition winners stunned Old Trafford and delighted their 1,000 travelling supporters with two late goals.
In this article brought to you by Swissquote, the UEFA Technical Observer Panel picks out several key tactical details from an enthralling match, Erik ten Hag's 50th in charge of United.
1-0: Marcel Sabitzer (14)
The on-loan Austrian midfielder, playing in an advanced role, scored his first goal in this season's Europa League. The move was started by Lisandro Martínez, who played the ball quickly to Anthony Martial on the left. United's No9 flicked a pass to Jadon Sancho, who played it to Casemiro. The Brazilian then fed Bruno Fernandes, who slid the ball forward as Sabitzer sprinted between Sevilla's central defenders Marcão and Tanguy Nianzou. Sabitzer controlled with his right foot and his left-footed shot took a slight deflection on its way in.
2-0: Marcel Sabitzer (21)
Martial dropped deep, with Sevilla's central defenders unsure whether to go with him. Martial pushed a ball forward for Sabitzer, who made another perfect run onto it while staying onside. Again, he used his right foot to control the pass and set himself up before using his left foot to send a shot beyond goalkeeper Yassine Bounou, who had already committed himself. With that, Sabitzer struck as many goals in 21 minutes as he managed in his 54 games for Bayern.
2-1: Tyrell Malacia og (84)
The Dutch full-back could have cleared the ball but thought it was going out of play for a goal kick. Instead, Jesús Navas kept the danger alive near the byline and crossed back towards the box, where Malacia's left leg caught the ball and turned it past David de Gea into his own goal.
2-2: Harry Maguire og (90+2)
A second own goal in eight minutes, this time from Maguire, as United – who were down to ten men – became only the second English side to score two own goals in a European game, after Chelsea against Ten Hag's Ajax in 2019. Youssef El-Nesyri headed a ball towards goal and the header took a deflection off Maguire into the United net to level the scores. Although the result stretched Sevilla's winless run in European away contests to 12 matches, their jubilant players celebrated this draw as if it were a victory.
It was a game of two halves. Manchester United did extremely well in the first period by finding an extra man behind Sevilla's midfield line. United did this by rotating players – usually Malacia would go forward or right-back Aaron Wan-Bissaka on the opposite flank. In clip one, however, we see Raphaël Varane push forward to pivot with Casemiro, while Wan-Bissaka, Bruno Fernandes and Martínez stay behind. This is an interchange of positions against Sevilla's high press.
Sevilla's players are confused about who marks Varane, the United defender avoiding a tackle and moving forward to create a domino effect. Antony also evades a tackle and, in one move, United have broken Sevilla's press and taken out their first two pressing players. United can then attack four against three.
In clip two, it's Malacia goes into a pivot position together with Casemiro. He doesn't touch the ball in this attack, but Sevilla must plan whether to mark Malacia or follow Bruno Fernandes, who drifts higher up the pitch in the half-space. As they do, De Gea plays the ball directly into Bruno Fernandes on the halfway line and, in doing so, United take out the two first pressing units and quickly create a 4v4 with the Sevilla defence.
In clip three, United build their attack, but watch how Malacia drifts up into the half-space, with Sancho outside him. Sevilla's midfield doesn't know who to pick and this opens a channel for Martial, who helps United to progress into the final third with his movement and link-up play.
At the end of this sequence, you can see United have moved both full-backs, Wan-Bissaka and Malacia, into the half-spaces between Sevilla's midfield line, with Sabitzer going behind their defence, Martial and Antony offering to attack from wide areas and Sancho also involved between the lines. There's rotation of players and positional manipulation, blended with the execution of the assist and goal.
Martial, in his first start for three months, was influential in United's counterattacks, holding the ball up and allowing his team-mates to progress their counter. In clip four, he links play from his own half in a counterattack, helping United keep the momentum of their attack by bringing Bruno Fernandes into play before his fine ball to Antony.
We must mention Martial again in clip five. He's deep in his own half when he receives the ball, but look how well he does. Again, it's a quick counter and he waits for Sabitzer and the forwards to connect with him before the perfect pass forward to Sabitzer, who scores United's second. The Austrian made key forward runs that led directly to his team's two goals. For the second, Martial dropping back confused the Sevilla players, who didn't know whether to go with him or not.
When needed, United's front three players were narrow, allowing space for the full-backs to overlap and overload in the wide areas, from where the hosts could provide crosses into the box.
Clip six is all about Casemiro, a vital player returning to the side after suspension. United played with a high defensive line because of a lack of speed in the Sevilla attack – despite Sevilla trying a high press. When this worked, it allowed United to stay high and press high, thus leaving a shorter distance to goal whenever they won back possession.
Look where Casemiro receives the ball here. First, he reads the play well to be in the right position to intercept, then he feeds the ball perfectly into Antony's path.
United dominated possession but were also dangerous on the counter. Bruno Fernandes, playing a deeper role than usual, took up some clever positions between the lines.
We should also talk about Sevilla, who were more aggressive in their defending in the second half, with a high press which put United under pressure. The Spanish side committed more men forward too and made intelligent use of substitutes, who twice forced United into making errors. Look how high they are in clip seven, winning the ball back four or five times in dangerous areas.
Sevilla squeezed up the pitch in the second half, with closer distances between their players. Sevilla's defence had been cut open for both United goals, but they were more compact and their shape and role were more clearly defined after the break, which helped them to win the ball back more and create chances. In clip eight, Sevilla lose possession, but the short distances between their players allow them to quickly employ a counterpress and prevent United from counterattacking.
Lastly, clip nine shows Sevilla's high pressure and how they've squeezed up to win second balls and duels, which helped them win the ball back and counter United. That pressure led to their two goals, albeit own goals.
This tie is now intriguingly poised for the return leg in Spain, where interest will be high among Sevilla's fans after their comeback result at Old Trafford.
Erik ten Hag, Man United manager: "We had the game in hand. We were 2-0 up and should have scored three or four – the game was totally on us. [We had] unlucky moments with injuries: we had to make some subs, then we lost control. We conceded two own goals; that's bad luck, but we have to deal with it. We have to learn and have to kill the game."
José Luis Mendilibar, Sevilla coach: "We were playing better in the second half; we'd managed to control them a bit more. It's as we said at half-time: with one goal we get back in the tie, and we were strong enough to keep going and take our chances."