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!