Once again Manchester United are left staring in disbelief as another European campaign comes to an end, this time against Sevilla in the quarter-finals of the Europa League.
The six time winners won 3-0 on Thursday evening and that followed their come from behind 2-2 at Old Trafford, a result that was achieved through own goals from Tyrell Malacia and Harry Maguire.
Their hopes of a cup treble are over, and now they turn their attention to a FA Cup semi-final against Brighton & Hove Albion.
While the loss is one thing, it was the manner of the defeat that makes it worse as familiar problems raised their head as they bowed out of Europe in southern Spain.
It’s all about passing out from the back with a set of defenders that work comfortably with a goalkeeper.
The first goal came from Sevilla pressurising Harry Maguire and his attempts to work with David de Gea ended with Youssef En-Nesyri scoring.
Harry Maguire in the wars again 😬pic.twitter.com/DOSnXWBtrs
— Balls.ie (@ballsdotie) April 20, 2023
United then thought they were 2-0 down when a misplaced pass intended for Aaron Wan-Bissaka was picked off and Lucas Ocampos hit the back of the net. This was ruled out for offside, but Sevilla made up for this with two goals in the second half and that ensured their progress to the semi-finals for the first time since 2020.
This isn’t about Sevilla and their love affair with the Europa League, but the prolonged issues with Man United being able to play out from under the back.
Glaring problems present obvious solutions
Every team has a moment like this, when a defeat presents a glaring problem and an obvious solution. Liverpool admitted that they needed to calm the chaos after their defeat to Real Madrid in the 2018 Champions League final so Fabinho was brought in. Chelsea were looking to a natural goal scorer under José Mourinho so Diego Costa was recruited from Atlético de Madrid in the summer of 2014.
United’s season has repeatedly shown issues with playing out from the back, with this going right back to the opening day against Brighton at Old Trafford. The first attack of the game came from Diogo Dalot getting dispossessed and Leandro Trossard hit the side netting (see the clip here at .10)
The issue was glaring the following week as Brentford knocked four goals past them in London, with United clearly struggling with the high press from the home side.
It isn’t just about the defender's collective ability to play football and pass the ball out of a high press. De Gea’s kick-outs can often be a liability that leaves United open to a turnover inside their own half. Gary Neville acknowledged as much last night.
Maguire will get battered but that pass from DeGea I wouldn’t like!
— Gary Neville (@GNev2) April 20, 2023
Newcastle United’s Jacob Murphy even admitted that they knew to target kick-outs when they recently played the Red Devils at St James' Park.
“Their first goal kick, De Gea was taking a while,' he said to Rio Ferdinand on the Vibe with Five YouTube channel.
“This is a bit unusual; he was taking his time with it, he was asking everyone to go up field, then hit long.
“They were just taking a while, lots of pointing, I could sense from that, we were going to have a good game from there.”
The problem is obvious, and United have shown that they know how to fix glaring issues with their team.
A big problem during the 2021-22 season was the absence of a defensive midfielder so Casemiro was brought in from Real Madrid.
They do have Lisandro Martínez, who played on the Ajax team under Erik ten Hag that specialised in playing out from the back. That’s just one defender, the rest of the backline is what needs to be addressed.
It isn’t all gloom at Old Trafford, they have one trophy in the cabinet and another could be won in the coming weeks. United are making strides under their Dutch coach, it’s just that familiar and well known issues need to be tackled before they can truly announce a return.
SEE ALSO: For Ten Hag, Europa League Has Been Full Of Challenge And Heartache