Sevilla vs Manchester United: Key Battles to watch out for

Well, it wasn’t supposed to be this difficult! After Harakiri by Manchester United in the first leg left them in a tricky situation, a depleted Manchester United travel to Sevilla wary of an upset in the second leg of the Europa League quarter-final.

It will be an interesting game from a tactical perspective as Erik Ten Hag will attempt to find creative solutions to major absences. Here are three key battles in the game from United’s perspective that could decide the fate of this tie:

Casemiro vs Suso

Manchester United will miss their talisman in Bruno Fernandes for this fixture. However, Sevilla welcome back theirs on the back of a goalscoring performance in La Liga on the weekend.

An ex-Liverpool player, Suso hasn’t been a regular fixture for Sevilla this season. However, when he has played, he has made a fairly good impact. He will have added incentive to hurt United due to his ties with Liverpool.

Suso likes to float between the lines from where he can influence the tempo of the game. After starting off his career on the wing, his silky dribbling skills and an eye for a pass have been best utilised as a No 10.

In the absence of United’s first-choice CB pairing, the importance of Casemiro will increase. Suso will look to influence things in the middle and find runners behind United’s backline regularly. It will be up to Casemiro to shackle him and take him out of the game with his trademark tackling and interception.

If Suso is allowed to play progressive passes from his No 10 position, Maguire and Lindelof might spend the whole game running towards their own goal, a nightmare scenario for United and Ten Hag.

Diogo Dalot vs Marcos Acuna

Marcos Acuna’s moment in the first leg was when he carried his compatriot Lisandro Martinez off the field after a serious injury. However, the Argentine LB is a threat of his own on the wing.

He routinely likes to venture forward and pin back the opposition on his side. Combined with Jesus Navas on the right, Sevilla’s fullbacks play a major role in Sevilla’s buildup play by creating overloads on the sides.

United’s fullbacks quota is thin with both, Shaw and Malacia’s status uncertain despite returning to training. In their absence, Ten Hag gave Diogo Dalot a run on the left against Nottingham Forest where he handled himself well in a goalscoring performance.

However, Acuna will pose a different threat altogether. He likes to go on the outside, which means Dalot will have to defeat on his left foot, his secondary foot. This problem will be solved to a great extent if either Malacia or Shaw gets the pass to feature from the start. Still, two players just returning from an injury up against a rampaging fullback is a recipe for disaster.

Manchester United’s Attackers vs Yassine Bounou

Bounou is quickly becoming a nightmare presence for United. It can be argued that his otherworldly shot-saving abilities have ended eras at Manchester United. Be it the Europa League semifinal against Ole’s United or his performance in the first leg, Bounou always seems to save his best for the Red Devils.

Manchester United might welcome back Marcus Rashford for this fixture which should add a pinch of clinical nature to a wasteful United attack. Players like Jadon Sancho, Wout Weghorst, and even Antony have routinely messed up easy chances this season as many straightforward games have become nervous affairs due to United’s profligacy.

Combine United’s attackers’ wastefulness with Bounou’s propensity to find another gear against Manchester United in particular, and a giant-killing narrative writes itself.

Manchester United will need to fight against the forces of history to finally get one over their weird bogey team. For that, they need to start fast, quieten the home crowd with an early goal, and then manage the game professionally. Every player on the field will need to win their individual battles. Erik Ten Hag has repeatedly stressed the desire for intangibles like passion, desire, and standards. If there was ever a game in which United needed that in abundance, it is this.

They have dug a hole for themselves after a shaky first leg. The climb out of the said hole will need to be swift and clinical.

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