Mourinho promises 'big night'

Manchester United's David de Gea pulling off a reflex, point-blank save from Sevilla's Luis Muriel in their 0-0 first-leg Champions League game in Seville on Wednesday. The hosts had 25 shots to United's six.
Manchester United's David de Gea pulling off a reflex, point-blank save from Sevilla's Luis Muriel in their 0-0 first-leg Champions League game in Seville on Wednesday. The hosts had 25 shots to United's six.
While record signing Paul Pogba was omitted from Jose Mourinho's first XI, the United manager had no option but to bring on the Frenchman in the 17th minute to replace the injured Ander Herrera.
While record signing Paul Pogba was omitted from Jose Mourinho's first XI, the United manager had no option but to bring on the Frenchman in the 17th minute to replace the injured Ander Herrera.

His United side will go into return leg with tie at 0-0 after huge saves by de Gea

SEVILLE (Spain) • Parking the bus is a tactic synonymous with Jose Mourinho, but the Manchester United manager knows he owes it to the Old Trafford faithful to release the handbrake and produce "a big Champions League night" in the return leg of their last-16 tie against Sevilla.

The build-up ahead of the first leg had been dominated by talk of Paul Pogba and the out-of-form midfielder was omitted from United's first XI as Mourinho opted for Scott McTominay alongside Ander Herrera and Nemanja Matic in the middle of the park.

Pogba did not put his feet up for long, coming off the bench in the 17th minute to replace the injured Herrera as the Red Devils ground out a stalemate at the Sanchez Pizjuan on Wednesday.

The 0-0 scoreline leaves the tie hanging in the balance - a scoring draw on March 13 will ensure the Spanish side go through on away goals. But Mourinho appeared to be the happier of the two managers in his post-match interview .

The Portuguese said the scoreline "reflected what the game was", despite his side managing just one shot on target all evening.

"The only moment we felt relieved was at the end of the first half," he said. "Apart from that, the game was even.

DAVID THE GOLIATH

Even with a couple of mistakes, the team defended well. When we made the mistakes, David was obviously there and that is the reason why he is what he is.

JOSE MOURINHO, acknowledging the huge role played by goalkeeper David de Gea in the 0-0 draw.


NEXT INSTALMENT

It's not good, it's not bad. Now we have one match to decide everything. Old Trafford needs a big Champions League night and it's going to get it.

MOURINHO, promising that United will produce a better performance in the second leg. The Premier League giants are looking to reach the Champions League quarter-finals for the first time since 2014.

"So I feel the result reflects what the game was. Was it a good result? It's not good, it's not bad. Now we have one match to decide everything at Old Trafford.

"Old Trafford needs a big Champions League night and it's going to get it."

By half-time, Sevilla's shot count had reached a dozen but they could not find a way past an inspired David de Gea, who made two stunning point-blank saves.

The first came from Steven N'Zonzi's header that he tipped over the bar. The other from Luis Muriel's header was even better.

All around the Pizjuan they could barely believe it. Muriel, head on the turf, could not either. He got to his feet and congratulated the man who had denied him.

Victor Lindelof approached his goalkeeper for a grateful word for bailing him out of trouble.

Mourinho acknowledged his team were indebted to de Gea for his performance.

"Even with a couple of mistakes, the team defended well," he said. "When we made the mistakes, David was obviously there and that is the reason why he is what he is."

He, however, did not mince his words about the hoo-ha over £89 million (S$163.8 million) record-buy Pogba, singling out 21-year-old McTominay instead for praise.

"In my pre-match interview, I had four questions and three were about Paul, and Paul was not even playing (from the start). That's a bit strange," he said.

"If I was one of you (journalists), I would ask if the United manager agrees that Scott McTominay had a fantastic performance, and my answer would be that yes, he had a fantastic performance.

"He looked a senior player, a player with great maturity. Scott probably looked like a man with dozens and dozens of matches in the Champions League when this is only the second (start)."

Mourinho also lamented Herrera's injury, with the Spaniard having been passed fit to return from a hamstring injury that saw him miss United's previous three games.

He looks likely to spend another untimely spell on the sidelines, with United's programme including Premier League games against Chelsea and Liverpool before the Sevilla return leg at home.

"I think it's a bad injury," said Mourinho. "Now we have proof that he was not 100 per cent fit."

United are hoping to reach the quarter-finals for the first time since 2014, while Sevilla have never made it past the last 16 in three attempts in the last decade.

Their coach Vincenzo Montella believes his side have a good chance of progressing.

"We had to win, and because of this, we are disappointed for the fans that have been incredible tonight," he said. " It's all to play for now."

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, THE GUARDIAN, REUTERS

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on February 23, 2018, with the headline 'Mourinho promises 'big night''. Print Edition | Subscribe