David de Gea’s stunning first-half save helped Manchester United claim a creditable draw at Sevilla in the first leg of their Champions League last-16 tie.
The Spain keeper had kept out efforts from Joaquin Correa and Steven N’Zonzi before showing quick reflexes to produce a one-handed save on the stroke of half-time and deny Luis Muriel’s header.
United, who were playing their first Champions League knockout game in four years, offered little offensively, with Romelu Lukaku spurning their best chance when he volleyed well over early on before substitute Marcus Rashford dragged a shot wide in the closing stages.
Paul Pogba started on the bench for the visitors, but came on after just 17 minutes following an injury to Ander Herrera.
Sevilla finished the game with 25 attempts on goal but a mixture of De Gea’s saves and poor finishing from the hosts left them frustrated at the final whistle.
Manchester United will be the happier of the two teams heading into the return leg at Old Trafford on Tuesday, 13 March with Jose Mourinho’s side winning 15 of their 18 games on home soil this season.
Once again, it was the absence of Pogba from the Manchester United starting line-up that dominated the build-up to the game.
Pogba missed Saturday’s 2-0 FA Cup win at Huddersfield because he was unwell but had been expected to return to the first XI in Seville.
Instead, the £89m midfielder was named on the bench, with Mourinho saying Pogba’s illness “created some doubts” about whether he could start on Wednesday.
The France midfielder has struggled for form in recent weeks and had little impact on this game after his early introduction because of Herrera’s injury.
However, it was not the sort of a game where his influence would perhaps be obvious.
United set up to defend deep, with Mourinho appearing to prioritise keeping a clean sheet over scoring an away goal. It wasn’t pretty but it was an effective away performance.
De Gea proves he’s one of the world’s best… again
United’s FA Cup win over Huddersfield was far from a dominant victory. The Red Devils had two shots on target and scored two goals, with Romelu Lukaku getting both.
Once again Mourinho’s side offered little offensively – Lukaku had the visitors’ first shot on goal in the 25th minute but volleyed well over.
Instead it was left to De Gea to ensure his side came away from Spain with a positive result.
The United keeper memorably produced a string of fine saves to deny Arsenal in the Premier League back in December and it was a similar story this time.
As Sevilla pressed in the closing stages of the first half, the Spanish shot-stopper was alert to keep out Correa’s placed effort before tipping over a header by former Stoke midfielder N’Zonzi.
De Gea saved his best for the stroke of half-time. Muriel found space between Victor Lindelof and Chris Smalling to direct a header at goal from point-blank range.
It looked to be a certain goal before De Gea flicked out his right hand to bat the ball away.
So impressive was the save from Muriel that the Sevilla forward himself acknowledged it, embracing De Gea as the two teams headed for the tunnel at the break.
Man of the match – David de Gea
‘Not good and not bad’ – what they said
Sevilla coach Vincenzo Montella: “I am very happy with the character shown by the team.
“We have to be pleased with the performance. The 0-0 leaves everything open.”
Manchester United boss Jose Mourinho: “The only moment where we felt relieved was in the last couple of moments of the first half when from a couple of our mistakes in possession they had a couple of good situations and De Gea made good saves.
“Apart from that the game was even, but the statistics are what they are.
“I really feel the result reflected what the game was – you ask me was it a good result, and I say it was not good and not bad.”
Another clean sheet for Man Utd – the stats
- Five of Manchester United’s past seven Champions League away matches in Spain have ended goalless.
- This was United’s ninth clean sheet in their past 11 matches in all competitions and their 23rd in all competitions this season – three more than any other Premier League side.
- United have drawn 22 matches in the Champions League goalless, a record they share with AC Milan.
- Sevilla failed to score in a home Champions League game for the very first time – this was their 19th home match in the competition.
- Only Aleksandar Kolarov (nine times v FK Qarabag in September) has been fouled more in a Champions League game this season than Alexis Sanchez in this match (six).
- Scott McTominay became the fourth-youngest Englishman to start a Champions League knockout match for the Red Devils – only Wayne Rooney, Phil Neville and Phil Jones were younger.
- This was Sevilla’s first goalless draw in a home European game since September 2005 against FSV Mainz 05 in a Uefa Cup match.
- Man Utd faced 25 shots in this match – only against Arsenal in December (33) have they faced more in a match this season.
Manchester United have a big game in the Premier League up next as they host Chelsea on Sunday, 25 February (14:05 GMT).
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