Romelu Lukaku

Photo by Michael Regan/Getty Images

Man Utd joins Spurs in FA Cup semis

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Jose Mourinho has come under heavy scrutiny in recent days and weeks, as his Manchester United side crashed out of the Champions League this week and continue to trail runaway Premier League leaders Manchester City by 16 points, yet the Portuguese is perhaps just 180 minutes from finishing the 2017-18 with a major trophy anyway.

[ MORE: Spurs beat Swansea to reach FA Cup semis ]

Man United got the best of Brighton & Hove Albion, to the tune of 2-0 at Old Trafford on Saturday, to book their spot at Wembley Stadium in the semifinals of the FA Cup. Romelu Lukaku scored the winning goal not long before halftime, with United grinding out another laborious result with superstars Paul Pogba and Alexis Sanchez glued to the bench for the whole of 90 minutes.

United enjoyed a healthy 61 percent of possession in the game, but were out-shot by the 12th-place side in the PL by a sizable margin, 16-8 (4-2 on target).

[ MORE: Follow all the FA Cup scores ] 

Lukaku’s rampage through the FA Cup continued in the 37th minute, as the big Belgian striker bagged not only his 23rd goal of the season in all competitions, but his fifth of the tournament thus far and extended his record of having scored in each round to four games.

Nemanja Matic floated a cross from the let side of the box to the back post, where Lukaku had created a yard or two of space for himself. Tim Krul didn’t come out to catch it, and Lukaku headed it just under the crossbar to give the Old Trafford faithful reason to smile again.

[ PREVIEW: Who will join Spurs, United at Wembley?

It was Matic who got on the end of another back-post ball, this one from an Ashley Young free kick, in the 84th minute to put United two goals ahead and secure the club’s second FA Cup semifinals appearance in seven seasons (United enjoyed a run of five final-four appearances out of eight in the years prior).

Tottenham Hotspur, who trail United by four points in the race for second in the PL, were the first side to advance to this season’s semifinals by winning 3-0 away to Swansea City on Saturday.

Mourinho on UCL exit: “Nothing new for this football club”

AP Photo/Dave Thompson
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Looking for answers to what cost Manchester United their campaign in the UEFA Champions League?

We wouldn’t advise turning to manager Jose Mourinho’s post-match comments. He was able to proffer very little after Wissam Ben Yedder’s brace off the bench propelled Sevilla to a 2-1 win at Old Trafford on Tuesday.

[ MORE: Match recap | 3 things ]

“We tried to be aggressive and intense from the first minute,” Mourinho said. “We didn’t score and Sevilla progressively kept the ball, and they controlled the game well.”

So you didn’t score, and they had the ball. Hmm. Tell us more, Mou.

“We had good chances to score, but they scored one goal and from that moment everything became much more emotional. The second goal made it impossible.

“We had good periods, we didn’t have great control over the game, but I can’t say there was anything wrong with my players and their intention to play.

“That’s football, we lost, but tomorrow is another day and Saturday is another match. I’m pleased the players aren’t hiding their sadness, but we have no time for drama.”

That’s not the match we watched, Mr. Mourinho. United ended up with 51 percent of the ball, but four fewer shots than the visitors’ 21.

United started with Marouane Fellaini in a bid to win a lot of aerial balls, and super sub turned starter Jesse Lingard was active but unable to find the back of the net.

Paul Pogba, Anthony Martial, and Juan Mata came off the bench, but United’s only goal came off a corner kick to industrious striker Romelu Lukaku.

EDIT: Apparently Mourinho doesn’t care whether his fans turn on him, given this ammo:

“Flames” or “hot take” — Choose your own descriptive adventure, but Mourinho is going to lose friends and alienate people here.

To bring up that United has lost in the Champions League before, and then point out that you’re the one who did it? That is brassy brassy stuff. Time and victories heal all wounds, but bookmark that quote as one that may stick with him all the way out the door (one day).

Three things from Manchester United’s Champions League exit

AP Photo/Dave Thompson

Manchester United disappointed on many levels in bailing out of the UEFA Champions League at the Round of 16.

[ RECAP: Man Utd 1-2 (1-2 agg.) Sevilla ]

It wasn’t a matter of bounces, as United was outplayed by the visitors and failed to show anything clinical in attack aside from a Jesse Lingard chance and workmanlike 90 minutes from Romelu Lukaku.

Here are three things we gathered from the contest.

Alexis invisible

For a guy making loads and loads of money and seeking a more ambitious club than Arsenal, Alexis Sanchez essentially went missing at Old Trafford on Tuesday.

The No. 7 red shirt was involved in some combination play, creating some first half chances, but was nowhere near the difference maker he was so many times for the Gunners.

Maybe this is down to Jose Mourinho and Sanchez still familiarizing themselves with each other’s strengths, but the Chilean missed a chance to become an Old Trafford hero in a building which has seen so many heroes etch their way into memory.

UPDATE: You know who agrees? Rio Ferdinand, who said, “The whole 11 today were shocking.”

Mourinho not bailed out by De Gea

Just days after outfoxing Jurgen Klopp in a big derby win, Jose Mourino failed to deliver another winning tactical plan for Manchester United.

Mourinho entered the match with a nil-nil score line, and apparently didn’t think his side could score one more goal than it conceded at Old Trafford.

Marouane Fellaini started the match in the midfield, and the first half saw loads of balls sent to him at the back post for knockdowns. Super sub Jesse Lingard also started and was quite active, denied by Sergio Rico’s fine form.

Paul Pogba and Anthony Martial were on the bench to start, both recovering from injuries but fit for substitute roles.

Was Sevilla prepared for more from United? Steven N’Zonzi seems puzzled by the hosts.

“I thought they were going to press a little bit more, but I don’t really want to talk about the game it’s a great win,” N’Zonzi said.

So often, Mourinho has been bailed out by his talent, in particular his dynamic keeper David De Gea.

But De Gea was slow to recognize Wissam Ben Yedder’s intentions on Sevilla’s first goal (below), and his attempt to slap the Frenchman’s difficult back post header over the goal ended up bounding off the post and into the net.

While he’s not the villain of the loss, he wasn’t near his impervious best on the United goals.

Lukaku makes some amends as the lone bright spot

Romelu Lukaku has, rightly or wrongly, been criticized for his big game performances.

He wasn’t perfect on Tuesday, but the Big Belgian was one of United’s lone bright spots well before he bullied his way into the box to score the side’s lone goal of the tie.

Just as he did against Liverpool at the weekend, Lukaku ran himself ragged tracking down passes and getting very physical with Sevilla’s back line.

It just wasn’t enough, as the bevy of busy and creative players able to play off Lukaku simply did not.

Ben Yedder brace sends Man Utd packing

AP Photo/Dave Thompson
  • Sevilla out-attempts Man Utd 20-15
  • First leg finished 0-0
  • Ben Yedder with two off the bench
  • Lukaku scores late consolation

Wissam Ben Yedder scored two goals in four second half minutes to knock Manchester United out of the UEFA Champions League as Sevilla posted a 2-1 win at Old Trafford on Tuesday.

Romelu Lukaku scored off a corner kick in the 84th minute, but United found no more as Jose Mourinho’s decision to deploy Juan Mata, Paul Pogba, and Anthony Martial as subs could not save the day.

[ MORE: Full lineups, stats, box score ]

Lukaku started an exchange with Lingard but side-footed the business end high and wide of the goal.

Sergio Rico was on hand to make his first save on Sevilla, and David De Gea was denied a chance to do the same with Luis Muriel skied over the goal.

Fellaini, a target for several crosses and knockdowns, then worked a 1-2 with Alexis Sanchez which concluded with a Rico save.

[ MORE: Watch full PL match replays ]

[ MORE: Latest Premier League standings ]

Sevilla entered the second half knowing a single goal would do the trick at either 1-0 or 1-1.

Eric Bailly made an outstanding sliding tackle in the box on Joaquin Correa in the 48th minute.

At the other end, Rico got low to get a hand on a Lingard attempt. Sanchez had an attempt blocked, and Fellaini sailed one away from the goal.

Paul Pogba was introduced after the hour mark.

Rashford won a free kick from 19 yards in the 67th minute, but mailed it over the goal.

But it was Sevilla who’d score via a counter attack, with Ben Yedder freezing Bailly with a feint before beating De Gea to the near post.

That moved Juan Mata and Anthony Martial into the fray for Jesse Lingard and Antonio Valencia.

It had the opposite effect in an immediate way, with the fourth official signaling that Ben Yedder’s header was pushed off his own post and into the goal by De Gea.

Chris Smalling missed a back post tap-in moments later for Manchester United. Lukaku couldn’t convert in-tight off a Mata feed in the 82nd.

Lukaku did finish a chance off a corner kick in the 84th minute, rewarded for a physical night’s work but leaving United with six minutes plus stoppage time to score two more goals.

United was denied shouts for an indirect kick inside the six when a blocked Martial shot was seemingly passed back to Rico to collect with his hands. Rashford headed just wide in the 87th minute.

De Gea denied Ben Yedder his hat trick in stoppage time.

Klopp adamant Mane deserved PK, admits “we chased the game”

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Jurgen Klopp is thinking macro and micro about another Liverpool loss to Manchester United.

[ RECAP: Man Utd 2-1 Liverpool ]

In terms of the 90-minute performance, the German manager summed it up pretty well; United hasn’t lost a home halftime lead since 1984, so it’s no surprise the Reds couldn’t find their way back on Saturday.

“We didn’t score before half time and then in the second half we chased the game,” Klopp said. “It is really difficult to do against a team like Manchester United.”

Then there’s the micro. Klopp was livid with referee Craig Pawson on several occasions, not the least of which was what he perceived to be a penalty against Marouane Fellaini.

[ MORE: Mourinho’s reaction – “I don’t care” about critics ]

United’s sub was well-positioned when Sadio Mane tried to stride past him and made contact with the midfielder’s leg. Liverpool fans wanted a penalty. So did Klopp.

“It was a clear penalty with Fellaini on Mane, in situations like this you need the right decision.”

United went ahead when Romelu Lukaku won an aerial challenge that wasn’t really challenged by Dejan Lovren, and Marcus Rashford benefited in space with a vicious rip.

Klopp defended Lovren.

“You can always lose a header or a challenge with Romelu Lukaku of course but there is a gap in behind and we need to close that.

“It was 2-0 down of course – not a good idea against Manchester United. Long balls to Lukaku and second situations. Lukaku is one of the best strikers in the world, we needed to be around to pick up the ball, we were not and Rashford could use the situation twice.”

Yep. That’s true. Lovren is an easy scapegoat and should’ve done better to snuff the chances out early, but there were multiple opportunities to thwart both Rashford goals.

Let’s hope these two are drawn together in the Champions League. The pitch might start on fire.

Finally, to AP Photo’s Rui Vieira: What a photo, man.