Nemanja Matic believes Sevilla deserved to go through to the Champions League quarter-finals and admitted there was “no excuse” for Manchester United’s shocking display.
Listless, dire and abject all aptly the performance produced by Jose Mourinho’s side at a packed Old Trafford on Tuesday.
David De Gea was the hero of a goalless first leg, but it was Sevilla substitute Wissam Ben Yedder (below) making the headlines this time, hitting a quickfire double to render Romelu Lukaku’s late goal pointless as the visitors secured a famous 2-1 win in the last 16.
United’s players were deservedly jeered off the pitch but have no time to wallow in self-pity given Brighton arrive on Saturday in the quarter-finals of the FA Cup - their last chance of silverware this season.
“Of course (it is difficult to take),” defensive midfielder Matic said. “We are not happy because we are out of the Champions League.
“But this is football, we have to accept it and to focus on the next game, which is very important also for us, in the FA Cup.
“We focus also for the league, but we have to say congratulations to the team, Sevilla.
“They played really well, and they deserved to go through.”
United’s display lacked the attributes that saw them beat bitter rivals Liverpool 2-1 on Saturday.
Mourinho’s men dug deep to edge that Premier League encounter, but Matic refused to use those exertions as a way to explain Tuesday’s lacklustre display against Sevilla.
“There is no excuse,” the defensive midfielder said. “There is no excuse.
“We had a big game, as you know, against Liverpool. We won.
“With high confidence we come to play this game, but today they played better than us and they deserved (to win).”
All eyes will be on Old Trafford on Saturday evening to see how United respond to this embarrassing setback.
Anything but victory against Brighton will send shockwaves around the club and Matic knows they owe supporters a response.
“We have to be focused on that because they’re a good team and we have to win,” the 29-year-old said.
“We have to go with everything to try to go through.
“We know that our supporters are sad because of this result.
“We are also sad, and we have to win to go back to winning ways, so I hope that the team reaction is going to be good.
“We have to forget this. We have to see our mistakes, to see what we have to do better and on Saturday is a new game.
“Life goes on and this is football, we have to accept that.”
Team-mate Ashley Young intends to use the disappointment as a catalyst for victory against Brighton.
“When you don’t score goals, you don’t win the game,” the England international said.
“When you concede, it’s obviously hard to get yourselves back into the game.
“We obviously scored the goal to get us back into it, but there wasn’t enough time.
“It’s obviously disappointing, there’s a lot of disappointment in there, but you have got to dust yourselves down and take the disappointment into the weekend.
“We’ve got another cup competition we’ve got to go and play for and we want to get ourselves back to winning ways and into the next round in that competition.”
Young understood the reaction to a loss in “a game of this magnitude”, but did not feel United took progress to the Champions League quarter-finals for gr anted.
“Every team in this competition is dangerous,” he added. “You wouldn’t be in this competition and this far into the competition if it wasn’t.
“We knew they had danger, but I felt when we started the game, we started off brightly and we had a few chances that just didn’t want to go in.
“On another day it would have gone in, but it wasn’t meant to be today and, like I say, we are disappointed.”
What went wrong?
Something everyone at United is trying to get to grips with in the aftershock. The goalless first leg in Sevilla never seemed as sturdy a result as some suggested given the lack of an away goal and the hosts’ performance, with only inspired goalkeeping from David De Gea (below) keeping United on level terms.
Instead of heeding that warning, United wilted under the Old Trafford floodlights. Poor tactics, inept individual displays and a questionable attitude allowed Sevilla to progress to the quarter-finals at the fourth time of asking.
Did many people see that coming?
Not given United’s fine form since the first leg, beating Chelsea, Crystal Palace and Liverpool to increase their stranglehold on second spot.
The Red Devils had won 11 of 15 UEFA competition ties in which they recorded a first-leg away draw. Then there is the financial gulf between these clubs, along with Sevilla’s struggles this season and the fact they had never won on English soil before. Last year they bowed out in the last-16 to Leicester.
So, where does this leave United?
Their last remaining hopes of silverware come in the FA Cup, making Saturday evening’s quarter-final against Brighton all the more important. Mourinho oversaw Europa League, EFL Cup and Community Shield glory in his first season, but Manchester City’s eye-watering lead means the Premier League is out of reach on the back of League Cup and Champions League exits. The Portuguese did not take kindly to a reporter asking whether that represented failure for United in the post-match press conference.
Wasn’t Mourinho a bit chippy after the game?
On a night when it was plain to see the best team won, the United boss claimed their performance was not bad. Mourinho attempted to downplay the surprise loss by bringing up the last-16 exits he masterminded from the away dugout at Old Trafford when managing Porto and Real Madrid.