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Irish Mirror
Irish Mirror
Andy Dunn

Man Utd implode against Sevilla to ruin Marcel Sabitzer's perfect transfer audition

It was routine, it was comfortable, it was the first big step into a European semi-final.

With six minutes of regulation time remaining, Marcel Sabitzer’s double had Manchester United taking a comfortable advantage into the second leg in Seville. And then, Erik ten Hag’s side shot themselves in the foot - not just once, but twice.

It was, quite simply, a double-barrelled implosion with late, avoidable, own goals from Tyrell Malacia and Harry Maguire giving Sevilla unlikely parity. It was as unforgivable as it was unlikely, United’s guilty of switching off, Ten Hag guilty of making too many changes.

It has to be said United were also unfortunate to lose Lisandro Martinez to injury in the final throes - after the first Sevilla goal - and they had to try and hang on with ten men. And as Yousef En-Nesryi’s header hit Maguire’s own head for the Spanish equaliser, it proved beyond United.

Before then, for a good 80 minutes, the night had belonged to United and Marcel Sabitzer. In a matter of a few first half seconds, Marcel Sabitzer probably earned himself a permanent role in Erik ten Hag’s quiet revolution.

Already on the scoresheet thanks to a finish that owed a debt to the deflecting boot of Marcao, Sabitzer was performing aerial defensive duties at a Sevilla corner. Moments later, he was at the polar end of the pitch, striding on to an Anthony Martial assist, timing his run and conversion to perfection.

In that short passage of play, Sabitzer seemed every inch the genuine box-to-box midfielder. And it seemed he had put United’s progression to the Europa League semi-finals into formality territory.

Marcel Sabitzer scored two and may have secured his permanent Man Utd future in the process (AFP via Getty Images)

To be fair, this sort of contribution from Sabitzer has been brewing in recent performances. Of course, it is not absolutely certain that United and Ten Hag will want to sign Sabitzer on that permanent basis.

Christian Eriksen, Fred and Scott McTominay - as well as Sabitzer’s colleagues against Sevilla - give Ten Hag plenty of options. But Sabitzer, 29, has surely earned the right to have a discussion about a longer-term agreement.

The caveat here was that Sabitzer’s starring role was against as limited a Sevilla side as Europe has seen in recent times. This was a quarter-final first leg that should have been worn comprehensively by the Premier League team.

After Sabitzer had followed up his slightly fortunate opener, United had seventy minutes to put this tie well and truly beyond the Spaniards.

But sloppiness set in and they had a trademark show of David de Gea reflexes to thank for taking their two-goal lead into the break, Tanguy Nianzou’s header beaten away quite spectacularly by the Spaniard.

That late slice of first half encouragement, along with the introduction of Jesus Navas, gave a side that is struggling in La Liga something of a lift.

And even though Antony, showing more of his positive unpredictability than his negative unpredictability, bent a typical left-footer against the crossbar, Ten Hag still felt compelled to make a triple change just after the hour mark, although the motivation for that will also have been connected to a hectic schedule that has claimed the fitness of Marcus Rashford.

But at least with some strictly old school commitment - if nothing else - good old Wout Weghorst certainly livened things up a little, laying out Gonzalo Montiel, who seemed only too happy to waste some time.

Not long after, Montiel was at it again after the slightest of brushes with Tyrell Malacia. At a couple down, it was odd. But, sensationally, thanks to two bizarre own goals, it paid off and there is all to play for in Seville.

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