It seemed like a bizarre defence at the time. When Sevilla knocked Manchester United out of the Champions League at Old Trafford last month, Jose Mourinho claimed that many players from the Spanish side were good enough to feature in his team.
“We went out to a side that’s more successful than Manchester United in last seven years in Europe,” he said. “We went out to a side that has a huge tradition in knockout competitions, a side in the Spanish Cup final.
“We are out to a team that knocked out Atletico Madrid in two legs. We are knocked out to a team that is brilliant in their approach for many years, with their scouting system, the way they invest with every Euro they have.
“Do you think they didn’t have any players who could play direct in my team? I cannot name them. If I name them their agents will jump with happiness and they will say: ‘Tag, tag, price’, this and that. In Sevilla, there are many players who would play in my team.”
Is that really the case, however? Here, Goal takes a look at the Sevilla players who would hypothetically have a good chance of starting for Manchester United…
Escudero for Young
United’s back line is not their strongest suit, and although he has done well at left-back, Ashley Young is not a natural defender.
The former Aston Villa winger said recently that he still sees himself as a wide player in midfield, but he has featured more often as a left-back and that is set to continue with fierce competition for places further forward.
Sevilla’s Sergio Escudero, who has been called up by Spain but not featured at international level for La Roja, would therefore be an upgrade.
A reliable defender who has been at the club since 2015, the 28-year-old would not look out of place in the line-up for Mourinho’s side.
Lenglet for Smalling
While Chris Smalling has drifted out of the international picture with England after Three Lions boss Gareth Southgate revealed he was looking to pick more technical players to bring the ball out from the back, Clement Lenglet is the latest in an impressive line of centre-backs for France.
A French Under-21 international, the former Nancy player has been a rock at Sevilla, impressing scouts from a number of Europe’s elite clubs, including Barcelona.
At the age of 22, he may well sign a new contract at the Andalusian club for now, but would be an intriguing option to strengthen the back line at United.
N’Zonzi for Matic
Nemanja Matic has done well since moving from Chelsea to Manchester United last summer and is a player very much admired by Mourinho.
However, Steven N’Zonzi has more to his game than the Serbian and has improved since playing in the Premier League for Blackburn and Stoke City.
The 29-year-old, previously considered by Barca as a back-up option for Sergio Busquets, was excellent in the tie against United and would fit in well at Old Trafford.
Sarabia over Rashford
Right wing is something of a problem position for Manchester United and although Alexis Sanchez can play there, he has not really featured in that role very often in recent seasons.
Pablo Sarabia, although left-footed, has been converted into a right winger at Sevilla and the former Real Madrid youngster has become a fine footballer during his time at the Sanchez Pizjuan.
With Marcus Rashford and Anthony Martial not exactly ideal for the right wing berth at United, the 25-year-old would likely be a starter in that role for Mourinho’s side.
Banega over Pogba
This one may seem controversial, but all is not right with Paul Pogba at Manchester United and if current form is anything to go by, the evergreen Ever Banega is possibiy a better option.
The Argentine’s range of passing is extremely impressive and he would make Mourinho’s side much more comfortable in possesion than they are with the former Juventus midfielder, who has not come on as expected since his €105 million move in 2016.
Overall, Pogba is quite possibly the better of the two, but Mourinho has preferred to pick Scott McTominay on many occasions recently and even plumped for Marouane Fellaini in the second leg against Sevilla. And Banega is definitely better than those two.
Combined Sevilla & United XI
In a combined XI, Manchester United still have more players and the reality is that Mourinho would probably pick Matic and perhaps Pogba too in the midfield, despite his praise of Sevilla’s stars.
And ironically, the one Sevilla player missing in this line-up is Wissam Ben Yedder, the French forward whose two goals won the tie for the Spanish side in Manchester. He would be good back-up at United, but is not a better player than Romelu Lukaku.
Should Mourinho want to buy any of Sevilla’s stars this summer, though, it should not be too difficult. The Andalusians are a selling club and all could probably be obtained at reasonable prices if, that is, the Portuguese coach really rates them as highly as he says he does…