Updated: Apr 22
Manchester United endured yet another night to forget in the Spanish city of Seville, crashing out of the UEFA Europa League in remarkable and embarrassing fashion.
One could not have foreseen the calamity seen at the Ramón Sánchez-Pizjuán Stadium on Thursday, nor the severity of the ramifications of such a dreadful display on the European stage. Sevilla found the net three times in front of a buoyant capacity crowd, and they also had a fourth goal ruled out for a marginal offside call.
United's progress in the competition, most notably overcoming FC Barcelona over two legs, was undone by three easily avoidable goals which compounded the misery of two late own goals at Old Trafford last week.
United had lost three key players from the first leg, as Lisandro Martinez and Raphael Varane each picked up injuries while a yellow card for Bruno Fernandes meant the Portuguese was suspended for the return fixture.
The absence of three influential figures took its toll on Erik ten Hag's team, with no United player rising to the occasion in the south of Spain. From the opening minutes the home side set the tempo and demonstrated how the visiting Reds would be in for a physically tough scrap throughout the 90.
Sevilla took full advantage of a moment of brainlessness in which both David de Gea and Harry Maguire were culpable. The defender played the ball to his goalkeeper and proceeded to ask for it back despite a high press of the hosts'.
With his body facing away from the direction of attack, Maguire was naive to the pair of Sevilla players on his radar and the United captain panicked with an ailing attempt to clear the ball without looking. Erik Lamela retrieved possession for Youssef En-Nesyri to open the scoring with just eight minutes on the clock.
De Gea and Maguire would presumably each claim the other was at fault but both individuals ought to take responsibility for such a silly and amateurish blunder.
This wasn't the first nor second, but the umpteenth time De Gea and Maguire have been on different wavelengths and perhaps the forthcoming summer is the right time to see both players moved on.
Sevilla doubled their lead two minutes into the second period as Ivan Rakitic's corner kick met the shoulder of Loic Balde and the ball crept in off the underside of the crossbar. De Gea was at fault once again, rooted away from his goalline, as he stood and watched the ball cross the line unopposed.
Despite the half-time introductions of Marcus Rashford and Luke Shaw, United's struggles carried over into the second 45 and matters continued from bad to worse.
The third goal hit the final nail into United's coffin and sealed the capitulation of a character-less team. De Gea failed to keep the ball under control after a Sevilla player hoofed it upfield from their own half. En-Nesyri capitalised to send a helpless United side crashing out of Europe.
This is the sixth consecutive season in which United have exited from Europe at the hands of Spanish opposition, and the third time to Sevilla in that same span.
Despite their domestic struggles this term, it was known Sevilla would be a tough nut to crack and it certainly proved that way over 180 minutes. The Andalusians are a different animal in the Europa League, four-time winners of the competition since it was reformatted in 2009.
This is not the first time De Gea has let his team down in an important European clash, let alone against teams from his native Spain. Lest we forget, the Madrid-born goalkeeper failed to keep out 11 penalties and then had his own effort saved in the Europa League final in 2021.
United have been in talks with De Gea over a new contract, albeit on lesser terms to his current deal. The Spaniard signed a four-year extension in 2019, worth a staggering annual salary in the region of £19million (£375,000 per week), and he is by far the best-paid goalkeeper in world football.
It was reported late March the 32-year-old turned down an initial proposal worth around £225,000 per week – a 40 per cent pay cut on his current contract which runs out in two months' time.
Talks have been ongoing between club and player representatives though it would come as no surprise if United opt to step back from negotiations and run down De Gea's contract. Such a calamitous cameo suggests his position is untenable and his days at Old Trafford are numbered.
It is no secret that De Gea has major limitations with the ball at his feet and, although Ten Hag won't care to admit it publicly, the manager would ideally prefer a more modern keeper for his team.
Ten Hag has defended his goalkeeper in countless media briefings and continues to suggest De Gea will suffice in between the posts for the timebeing. However, the manager's patience is undoubtedly wearing thin and a new goalie could be bumped up the list of priorities in the near summer transfer window.
The urge for a new, world-class striker is unquestionable, while an additional arrival in midfield is also a must. Financial Fair Play (FFP) regulations mean the recruitment team will need to optimise strategy in the next stage of Ten Hag's transformative rebuild. United ought to rectify their poor track record in player sales in order to raise extra funds for new players.
United have struggled away from home this season and when it rains, it pours. Poor showings (such as those at Liverpool, Manchester City, Newcastle, Brentford and now Sevilla) are starting to occur too regularly.
Currently placed third in the Premier League, the Red Devils remain in firm contention for a top-four finish which would secure Champions League qualification.
United are next in action on Sunday as they take on Brighton in the FA Cup semi-finals at Wembley. The Seagulls, themselves, are in contention for European football next season and overcoming Roberto de Zerbi's men is a tall order, even when United aren't missing key players.
The likes of Rashford, Fernandes and Shaw are expected to return to the starting XI in United's bid to reach the FA Cup Final.
In the event the Reds do manage to sneak past Brighton, they would likely come up against Man City in the Final on 3 June. United's local rivals go to battle with Sheffield United in the corresponding semi-final tie on Saturday.
United have already contested 52 matches in all competitions and are still to play at least another nine more before the 2022/23 campaign reaches its conclusion. Ten Hag's men have eight games remaining in the Premier League as well as one (possibly two) in the FA Cup.
Man United Upcoming Fixtures:
23 April - Brighton (N) - FA Cup SF
27 April - Tottenham (A) - Premier League
30 April - Aston Villa (H) - Premier League
4 May - Brighton (A) - Premier League
7 May - West Ham (A) - Premier League