Manchester United must not allow the huge disappointment of the Champions League exit at the hands of Sevilla to fester.
Tuesday evening was a major shock considering how Liverpool had been destroyed just three days earlier. Nobody saw Sevilla’s 2-1 win coming. But it did and now the recovery period has to be swift.
United’s so-called ‘bouncebackability’ has been lauded in the past. That aptitude to be able to compartmentalise a setback within hours and move on to putting it right has served the Reds well down the years. But it hasn’t always been the case and there are warning signs in the history books.
Goals: United 1 Sevilla 2Video
Days later, shell-shocked, United were on the end of a heavy 4-1 beating in the Manchester derby at City. Fergie’s title-holders lost three more league games after that, as the league battle petered out and Arsenal’s Invincibles walked off with the championship.
The good news was that the Gunners were beaten in the FA Cup semi-final at Villa Park thanks to a Paul Scholes goal, to set up a Millennium Stadium final in Cardiff against Millwall. United won 3-0 that day and crucially retrieved some silverware from the season.
United, of course, were by that time comfortably striding towards the title and that was not derailed by the disappointment (and injustice) of the Champions League exit. However, the potential for a Wembley FA Cup final was shattered in the wake of Real’s win: the Reds were back at Old Trafford five days after the European exit to play Chelsea in the quarter-finals of the FA Cup.
United looked to have got over the Champions League misery and were 2-0 up against interim boss Rafa Benitez’s side. But Chelsea fought back to draw 2-2 and won the replay at Old Trafford. The possibility of Sir Alex claiming another domestic double in his final season was derailed.
United must respond by extinguishing that optimism and secure a place at Wembley in the FA Cup semi-finals. Sir Alex always maintained that winning a trophy every season, to keep that winning momentum going, was absolutely vital for the club and that remains a possibility this campaign.
Despite the defeat to Sevilla, Mourinho remains in a very good position to deliver another piece of silverware, adding to the EFL Cup and Europa League trophies from last season.
More than anybody, he knows that winning habit must not falter.
The opinions expressed in this article are personal to the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Manchester United.