Could we meet Sevilla again in the Champions League?
Each day this week we've been taking a look at the potential opponents Manchester United could face from the Pot One seeds in next season's Champions League.
Today, our focus shifts towards a fairly familiar foe, which might bring back some painful memories. In fact, so familiar that our most recent competitive fixture came against them!
We're talking, of course, about Sevilla: the prolific Europa League winners that knocked us out of the 2019/20 competition at the semi-final stage. The Andalusians had already secured a place in next season's Champions League by virtue of a fourth-place finish in La Liga, but derive Pot-One status from their Europa League triumph in Germany.
In case you need a refresher, here's all the key info about a potential rematch with the Rojiblancos...
Despite the feeling of familiarity that surrounds United and Sevilla, we've met the Europa League kings just three times in our long European history. Sadly, our record amounts to a disappointing one draw and two defeats. The first meeting, in 2018, came at the last-16 stage of the Champions League, where we dug out a creditable 0-0 draw at the Estadio Ramon Sanchez-Pizjuan, largely thanks to some miracle-working from David De Gea. Hopes were high for the second leg at Old Trafford, but two goals from Wissam Ben Yedder in the last 20 minutes caught us by surprise, and a late Romelu Lukaku response wasn't enough to prevent the Reds' exit from the competition. Our most recent match-up, of course, came in the semi-final of the most recent edition of the Europa League. We opened the scoring via an early Bruno Fernandes penalty, but Sevilla hit back through Suso. Despite a raft of United chances early in the second period, it was the Spaniards who eventually found a decisive second goal, through Luuk de Jong. The only other encounter Reds may remember was a friendly match on the occasion of Rio Ferdinand's testimonial back in the summer of 2013.
PLAYED FOR BOTH
No players have represented both Sevilla and United, but one of our former captains did manage the Andalusian club back in the 1940s. Patrick O'Connell was the first Irish captain of United, paving the way for future greats like Johnny Carey and Roy Keane, making 35 appearances for the first team between 1914 and 1915. Early in the 1920s, O'Connell moved abroad and enjoyed a remarkable career managing Spanish football clubs, starting with Racing Santander. He led Sevilla's great adversaries Real Betis to their first and only La Liga title in 1935/36, and after several years in charge of Barcelona, he spent the 1945/46 season with Sevilla.
THEIR 2019/20 CAMPAIGN
The Spanish club enjoyed a superb 2019/20 season, finishing inside La Liga's top four for the first time since 2017 and then climaxing with a remarkable sixth Europa League success in just 15 seasons. Before their first win in 2006, Sevilla had never won a European trophy, so this is a truly golden period in their history. Former Spain and Real Madrid manager Julen Lopetegui is the man credited for their excellent recent campaign, which was built around their superb organisation and a committed defence. Only Barcelona and Diego Simeone's notoriously parsimonious Atletico Madrid conceded fewer goals in La Liga last term.
Semi-final photos gallery
Check out these pics from a dramatic Europa League clash in Cologne.
WHO'S THE STAR?
While their effectivity is all about the collective effort, midfielder Ever Banega stood out again during the closing stages of the Europa League, as he did when the Spaniards beat United in 2018. However, the Argentinian midfielder is set to leave Spain this summer and will continue his career with Al-Shabab in Saudi Arabia. Other outstanding players are former Manchester City winger Jesus Navas, who has been converted to a full-back since returning to his boyhood club, and top scorer Lucas Ocampos. United fans may also remember a couple of other players in Los Nervionenses' squad: former Blue Fernando and ex-Liverpool forward Suso (currently on loan from Internazionale).
Ever Banega has been an influential force in the Sevilla midfield, but is set to depart this summer.
WHAT ABOUT THE MANAGER?
Lopetegui took over last summer after a difficult couple of years from a personal perspective, in which he was sacked by both the Spanish national team and Real Madrid. He has a long history with the national set-up, winning the European Under-19 and Under-21 championships in 2012 and 2013 respectively, before undertaking his first spell in club management with Porto. After an unsuccessful year-and-a-half in Portugal, he assumed the reins of the senior Spain team in 2016, following the retirement of legendary coach Vicente del Bosque. Lopetegui helped La Roja qualify for the 2018 World Cup in Russia in serene style, but was then controversially sacked just days before the tournament, after news emerged that he had arranged to join Real Madrid for the following season. Unfortunately, once in Madrid, a bad run of results – including a heavy Clasico defeat – led to another premature dismissal, just two months into the season. Happily, the 54-year-old has relocated his mojo in Andalucia, and finished 2019/20 with his first piece of silverware as a manager in senior football.
Get ready for next season. Our 2020/21 home and away kits are available now from United Direct.