COLOGNE – Manchester United made it an unwanted hat trick of semifinal defeats this season after losing 2-1 in the Europa League to Sevilla on Sunday.
After losing in the last four of the FA Cup and EFL Cup, United failed to convert a string of chances before Luuk de Jong scored the winning goal for Europa League experts Sevilla.
The Spanish club has won all five of the finals it's reached in Europe's second-level cup competition. Sevilla has the chance to win a record-extending sixth title on Friday in Cologne when its opposition will be either Inter Milan or Shakhtar Donetsk, who play Monday.
United will look to the new English Premier League season next month after a marathon coronavirus-extended campaign which saw defender Harry Maguire play 55 games.
“We deserved to go through but ultimately we fell short at the semifinal stage, for the third time this season,” Maguire told BT Sport. “It means a lot to us, the boys are devastated. We have a good group of lads who know what it means to play for this club and losing isn’t acceptable. Getting to semifinals isn’t acceptable and we now have to look at taking it another step.”
United was beaten 3-2 on aggregate by Manchester City in January in a two-leg EFL Cup semifinal and 3-1 by Chelsea in the FA Cup semifinals in July.
Sevilla goalkeeper Yassine Bounou kept his team in the semifinal at 1-1 with crucial saves either side of halftime, before de Jong won it.
With the game at 1-1 and heading for extra time, Sevilla substitute de Jong made the breakthrough in the 78th minute. A cross by Jesus Navas fell kindly for the tall Dutch forward to score his first European goal of the season from close range.
United had taken the lead in the ninth minute with yet another penalty in a season packed with them. Diego Carlos tangled with Marcus Rashford as the United forward had his shot saved, and then Bruno Fernandes stepped up to send the penalty into the top-left corner.
United has been awarded 22 spot kicks in all competitions this season, more than any other club in the five biggest European leagues. Since Fernandes arrived at the club in January, he's scored eight from the spot.
Fernandes put a hop back into his run-up after omitting it for the extra-time penalty which decided the quarterfinal against Copenhagen. It was enough to beat Sevilla 'keeper Bounou, who had saved a spot kick from Wolverhampton’s Raul Jimenez in the previous round.
Sevilla equalized 17 minutes later with a lightning team move which exposed both of United's full-backs. Lucas Ocampos' pass put attacking left-back Sergio Reguilon, on loan from Real Madrid, in space to send a perfectly calculated low cross for onrushing forward Suso to knock into the net on the right flank.
That goal jolted United back into life. Anthony Martial curled a promising shot over the bar before Bounou was forced to parry powerful shots from outside the box by Rashford and Fernandes.
United started the second half in similarly exuberant style, with Bounou forced to save from Martial and other efforts blocked by an increasingly desperate Sevilla defense. After seeing those chances stopped, United lost some of its intensity, allowing Sevilla to get back in the game and score the winning goal.