Manchester United v Sevilla: Red Devils can cruise to big win

Juan Mata of Manchester United
Manchester United are in fine fettle for the visit of Sevilla
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The bigger picture is shaping up quite nicely for Manchester United and Mike Holden thinks they should win comfortably against a defensively shaky Sevilla...

"The potential exists for the Red Devils to turn this into a procession should they get their noses in front with ample time to spare. In that scenario, Sevilla would be compelled to throw caution to the wind and there's abundant evidence of them crumbling defensively against superior opposition."

Manchester United v Sevilla
Tuesday 19:45, Live on BT Sport 2

Mourinho will expect to be vindicated

Jose Mourinho came under fire for his negative approach in the first leg of this last 16 Champions League tie, but the record books will only ever remember the eventual outcome and the Portuguese will fully expect his actions to be vindicated in the return at Old Trafford.

The 0-0 draw at the Sanchez Pizjuan was widely greeted as a satisfactory result but the manner of it was the source of much post-match debate. United made almost no attempt to grab themselves an away goal and were largely indebted to David De Gea for a string of early saves that ensured they returned from Andalusia unscathed.

However, events on the domestic front over the past three weeks have only turned the tide in United's favour. The Red Devils already have one foot in next season's Champions League following 2-1 home wins over Chelsea and Liverpool, which leaves them with a nine-point cushion over the fifth-placed Londoners with only eight games remaining.

Sevilla, by contrast, are highly unlikely to qualify for next year's competition on the back of home defeats to Atletico Madrid (2-5) and Valencia (0-2), which leaves them trailing fourth-placed Los Che by 11 points with ten games to go.

Contrasting moods from Saturday

It's a situation that drastically alters the mood in both camps, mainly because the crux came on Saturday. Both teams went into crucial matches with an obligation to field their strongest 11 and only three days to deal with the after-effects.

United emerged victorious with two goals from Marcus Rashford taking care of business inside 24 minutes, whereas the Rojiblancos were left deflated by a Rodrigo Moreno double, the first of which had them chasing the game from the 24th minute onwards.

In many ways, Sevilla's game was also the more significant because their position was more desperate to begin with and the consequences of defeat more immediately apparent in terms of the club's financial state going forward.

History also against the Rojiblancos

From the outset, the visitors have viewed this clash in opportunistic terms - a shot to nothing. Nobody in Seville expected to progress when the draw was made but the current score - and the potential value that an away goal carries - is at least tantalising enough to keep them dreaming.

With five Europa League triumphs in the past 12 years - lifting the trophy three successive times between 2014 and 2016 - their European pedigree is excellent. But they haven't reached the quarter-finals of this competition since 1958, falling at this hurdle three times in the last nine years against Fenerbahce (2008), CSKA Moscow (2010) and Leicester (2017).

United gearing up for big business in April

United have been no match for Manchester City in the Premier League, which was their primary objective before Christmas, and their performances have frequently underwhelmed. But their results, in any other season, would have put them in title contention.

And Mourinho has been consistent in his assertion all along that this competition doesn't begin in earnest until April, so we shouldn't be too quick to judge where United belong in the overall scheme of things.

Mourinho has a long history for producing teams that compete without stress when the stakes are highest and he continually comes up trumps in knockout competitions. Everything United have done - or not done - thus far could be geared towards peaking in the final two months.

He will expect to progress from this tie with minimal fuss and approach the last eight as an equal, ready for whatever the draw throws at him.

Montella's men could crumble when chasing

The first goal is obviously crucial in keeping United calm, composed and in control, and the approach ought to be measured rather than cavalier while the tie remains goalless.

However, the potential exists for the Red Devils to turn this into a procession should they get their noses in front with ample time to spare. In that scenario, Sevilla would be compelled to throw caution to the wind and there's abundant evidence of them crumbling defensively against superior opposition.

In six tussles against top-four opposition in La Liga, they've been beaten every time, scoring just three goals and conceding 20. Only once in that sample has the opposition failed to win by at least two clear goals and the [3.00] available on United landing the -1 handicap with the Sportsbook looks like a solid investment.

But there's also mileage in this turning ugly for Vincenzo Montella's men. The Italian coach arrived during the winter break and has barely rotated throughout a hectic January and February that brought just one blank midweek en route to the Copa del Rey final.

So let's also split a point between the 5-0 and 5-1 correct score options at 90/1 and 100/1 respectively. It would hardly be an unusual experience for the Rojiblancos. They were hammered 5-1 at Spartak Moscow back in October and have shipped that quantity a further four times on Spanish soil over the past three months against Real Madrid (0-5), Real Betis (3-5), Eibar (1-5) and Atletico Madrid (2-5).

Mike Holden Profit/Loss 2017-18

Staked: 119 pts
Returned: 92.65 pts
P/L: -26.35 pts

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