David de Gea produced a string of fine saves to help a lacklustre Manchester United hold Sevilla to a 0-0 draw in the first leg of their Champions League last-16 tie in Seville.
The early introduction of Paul Pogba, who replaced the injured Ander Herrera, had little influence as Sevilla dominated for large swathes of the opening period, but the hosts were denied time and again by the brilliance of De Gea.
There was more of the same after the break, but this time it was wayward finishing that denied the La Liga side, with Pablo Sarabia missing the most gilt-edged opportunity from close range.
Sevilla: Sergio Rico (6), Lenglet (7), Banega (8), Correa (6), Nzonzi (7), Navas (7), Sarabia (7), Escudero (6), Muriel (6), Vazquez (7), Mercado (6)
Subs: Pizarro (N/A), Sandro Ramirez (N/A)
Man Utd: De Gea (9), Valencia (6), Lindelof (6), Smalling (6), Young (6), Matic (6), Herrera (5), McTominay (7), Mata (5), Lukaku (5), Sanchez (5).
Subs: Pogba (6), Martial (6), Rashford (6).
Man of the match: David de Gea
Romelu Lukaku did have the ball in the back of the net in the second half, but it was ruled out for handball as United continued their wretched record against Spanish sides, having scored just seven goals in their last 15 Champions League encounters against Spanish opposition.
Buoyed by a boisterous home crowd, Sevilla started on the front foot, with Luis Muriel forcing De Gea into a smart stop from a low, fizzing effort from 25 yards.
Then, after being left on the bench once again by Jose Mourinho, Pogba made an appearance 18 minutes in as Herrera had to be withdrawn with an injury, with the France international deployed in his favoured role on the left of a midfield three.
Paul Pogba was left on the bench, with Scott McTominay keeping his place in a three-man United midfield. David de Gea came back in, as did Antonio Valencia, and centre-back pairing Chris Smalling and Victor Lindelof remained after the 2-0 win at Huddersfield. Spaniards Ander Herrera and Juan Mata also started, as did Romelu Lukaku and Alexis Sanchez. For Sevilla, former Premier League players Jesus Navas and Steven N’Zonzi started.
United’s best chance of the first half came in the 24th minute, as Alexis Sanchez picked out Lukaku, but the Belgian fired over from a good position.
Joaquin Correa then tested De Gea down to his left, before the Spain international produced his best stops of the match right at the end of the half to first deny Steven N’Zonzi, before he then brilliantly tipped Muriel’s goal-bounder header over the top to stun the masses in the Ramon Sanchez-Pizjuan.
The second half was more scrappy as Sevilla elected to shoot from distance all too often, without really troubling De Gea enough.
Muriel clipped a cross onto the head of Sarabia in the 73rd minute, but the Sevilla forward could not find the target from a few yards out.
The Manchester United fans thought they had snatched a winner seven minutes from time, but Lukaku was adjudged to have handled as he found the net inside the box. A win would have been unfair on the home side, who, but for De Gea, would have taken a healthy lead to Manchester for the second leg.
De Gea shines as Mourinho's Manchester United get the job done at Sevilla, says Sue Smith. The managers
Jose Mourinho: “I’m not relieved. I think we finished the game with more space than we had in the beginning. We were more close to the possibility of scoring a goal, so no, I think the only moment where we felt relieved was in the last couple of minutes of the first half, where by couple of our mistakes in possession they had a couple of good instances and David made some great saves.
“The game was even, the stats are what they are. Sometimes you have 15 shots, but 13 of them were what I call ‘statistic shots’. So I really feel that the result reflects what the game was.”
Man of the match – David de Gea
We are running out of superlatives for David de Gea. He has saved his side time and again, and he did so again in southern Spain. De Gea has now saved 95.5 per cent of shots in the Champions League this season (21 of 22 shots on target), as he closes in on a record season for clean sheets.
The save to deny Muriel in the first half was world class, ensuring United remain favourites to progress in the tie.
- Five of Manchester United’s last seven Champions League away matches in Spain have ended goalless.
- This was Manchester United’s ninth clean sheet in their last 11 matches in all competitions and their 23rd in all competitions this season – three more than any other Premier League side.
- Sevilla failed to score in a home Champions League game for the very first time – this was their 19th home match in the competition.
- Scott McTominay became the fourth youngest Englishman to start a Champions League knockout match United – only Wayne Rooney, Phil Neville and Phil Jones were younger.
Manchester United now host Chelsea on Super Sunday, live on Sky Sports Premier League at 2.05, while Sevilla host Atletico Madrid at 7.45pm, also live on Sky Sports Football on Sunday.