U-turn by Lukaku on 'hiding' remark

Manchester United’s Romelu Lukaku reacts after missing a chance in the second leg of the Champions League last 16 tie against Sevilla at Old Trafford. The striker did score a consolation but could not prevent the Spanish side winning 2-1 to progres
Manchester United’s Romelu Lukaku reacts after missing a chance in the second leg of the Champions League last 16 tie against Sevilla at Old Trafford. The striker did score a consolation but could not prevent the Spanish side winning 2-1 to progress. PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE
Sevilla forward Wissam Ben Yedder scoring the opener against David de Gea, two minutes after coming on as a 72nd-minute substitute.
Sevilla forward Wissam Ben Yedder scoring the opener against David de Gea, two minutes after coming on as a 72nd-minute substitute. PHOTO: REUTERS
United’s defenders were again at fault when they allowed Ben Yedder to head in his second goal from close range. De Gea tried to claw the ball away but replays showed that the ball had crossed the line.
United’s defenders were again at fault when they allowed Ben Yedder to head in his second goal from close range. De Gea tried to claw the ball away but replays showed that the ball had crossed the line. PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

Damage done despite striker's backtracking on criticism of team-mates after Sevilla shock

LONDON • Romelu Lukaku has backpedalled from claims he made in a TV interview with BT Sport that some of his team-mates were "hiding" on the pitch after Manchester United's shock 2-1 Champions League last-16, second-leg defeat by Sevilla on Tuesday.

The Belgian striker did not hold back post-match, saying: "Some things were flawed with some players, some players were hiding... we should have went through... but we didn't deserve it because we weren't good enough."

He took to Instagram yesterday to clarify that he would "never criticise his team-mates" and the team were instead "hiding their faces in the dressing room" as they were upset.

However, there was no let-up in the inquest into the poor display by United, who were presumably inhibited by manager Jose Mourinho's cautious line-up.

Creative midfielders Paul Pogba and Juan Mata were left on the bench, while Mourinho's inclusion of Marouane Fellaini, who contributed little, backfired.

Pundit Paul Scholes stuck the boot into his former team, saying: "There was no desire, energy or speed about the team... they didn't even try to win or score a goal.

"It seemed their main plan was to hit long balls to Marouane Fellaini and play for knockdowns. That's not good enough in the last 16 of the Champions League."

  • Shots on target Manchester United managed in the two legs against Sevilla.

    14

    Number of times out of 18 Champions League knockout meetings that LaLiga clubs have eliminated Premier League clubs.

Former United defender Rio Ferdinand tweeted that this was the "weakest Sevilla team in years" yet "the way United were set up to counter-attack was baffling".

Ferdinand also slammed United's players for being "far too slow, cautious in possession and passive without it" while former Liverpool captain Steven Gerrard told BT Sport that "Mourinho's big players didn't perform... whatever tactics you play, none of them were good enough tonight".

In contrast, Sevilla, who "played the game of their lives" according to their manager Vincenzo Montella, deserved to progress to the quarter-finals because they had two players who performed with intelligence and enterprise in Steven N'Zonzi and Ever Banega.

Their midfield endeavours gave the LaLiga side a solid platform from which substitute Wissam Ben Yedder scored twice to punish hapless defending from United in the second half.

The Red Devils paid the price for some poor marking when they allowed Sevilla to sweep through the middle unchecked, giving the Frenchman the chance to pull the trigger in the box for the opener.

And United fared no better for the second when their defence failed to close down Joaquin Correa's flick from a corner, allowing Ben Yedder to head home despite David de Gea's desperate attempts to claw the ball off the line.

Lukaku pulled one back six minutes from the final whistle, but United were left to rue their failure to attack both at Old Trafford and the Ramon Sanchez Pizjuan, where the first leg ended 0-0.

Former United manager Alex Ferguson looked on in the stands, but there was no miracle in "Fergie time" with United needing two more goals to progress as Sevilla went on to make the last eight for the first time in 60 years.

United mustered only four shots on target across both legs, yet Mourinho insisted after the game that his side had not put in a "bad performance".

"I don't want to make a drama of it... That's football, it is not the end of the world," he said.

His comments, however, were at odds with the sour mood in Manchester after a first home European defeat since 2013 to a Sevilla side only fifth in LaLiga. Sevilla have conceded 42 league goals this term and 12 in six Champions League group games.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, REUTERS, THE TIMES, LONDON

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 15, 2018, with the headline 'U-turn by Lukaku on 'hiding' remark'. Print Edition | Subscribe