Manchester United resume their European adventure after a relentless domestic schedule as they welcome regular European nemesis Sevilla to Old Trafford for the first leg of the UEFA Europa League quarterfinal.
Sevilla are unbeaten against United in their past three European meetings. Loss to them famously caused Jose Mourinho’s “Football heritage” rant when United were knocked out of the Champions League by Sevilla.
Despite their domestic struggles (13th in La Liga, five points off the relegation zone), Erik ten Hag will be keen to stamp out any complacency from his charges. Just like Real Madrid in the Champions League, Sevilla have the uncanny knack of raising their game on European nights.
A Marcus Rashford injury creates an added wrinkle to this potential banana skin fixture for the Red Devils.
Here’s what can be expected from the game:
Casemiro-Eriksen midfield- FINALLY!
Erik ten Hag has waited a long time to get back his first-choice midfield. Either through Eriksen’s injury or Casemiro’s suspension, he has rarely had the chance to see it in action.
Sevilla could be the first game in a long while when it finally happens. Casemiro’s domestic suspension makes him eligible to play this game. Meanwhile, Eriksen finally made his return after more than two months out with a 15-minute cameo against Everton.
The duo’s game complements each other perfectly and it could be the base of potential success arriving at the club as the season enters its make-or-break phase.
Tony Martial scores again?
Marcus Rashford will be missed and in his current form, he is irreplaceable. 27 goals and 10 assists in all competitions can’t be conjured out of thin air in his absence.
However, the manager will take solace in the fact that his main striker, Anthony Martial has returned from an injury layoff hungry for goals. He struck against Everton and Erik ten Hag will hope that starts a purple patch.
Moreover, his call for more players to score was answered against Everton as Scott McTominay also got on the scoresheet.
Rashford’s absence will need to be covered up by committee. However, Anthony Martial will have to be the head of the said committee.
Sevilla- United’s bogey team
It can be said that Sevilla have started the downfall of two eras at Manchester United. Knocking United twice from European competitions, once UCL and UEL the other time, they have been United’s bogey team.
Elimination from the Champions League sent Jose Mourinho’s reign spiralling and the Europa League elimination increased the scrutiny on Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s tactical acumen.
So far, Erik ten Hag has overcome the Spanish bogey ride. Barcelona and Real Betis have been dispatched in commanding performances. If United lay to rest their demons of Sevilla, it could be a huge psychological barrier overcome by this developing squad.
Manchester United vs Sevilla prediction
Erik ten Hag has shown enough to be assured that this United team is different from the ones that wilted against Sevilla previously. Furthermore, this Sevilla team also looks miles away from being threatening this season.
Manchester United would hope to put this fixture to rest in the first leg itself. It would be a huge surprise if United fail to win this given Sevilla’s struggles of late.
Prediction: Manchester United 3-0 Sevilla