The stage was set for Erik ten Hag‘s side to enjoy a comfortable night at Old Trafford when Marcel Sabitzer‘s first-half brace put United in complete control, and they were inches away from a third goal, and one that would have effectively put the tie to bed, when Antony struck the woodwork after the break.
As it turned out, they were at that point half an hour away from trudging off the pitch struggling to comprehend how they will not be taking a lead to Spain for next week’s second leg, the six-time champions Sevilla producing a late comeback with the help of a helping head and foot.
Jesus Navas got in behind Tyrell Malacia with five minutes remaining, looked to fire the ball across the face of goal and instead found the United left-back’s outstretched boot, diverting it past David de Gea.
And a second own goal followed in stoppage-time, this time Harry Maguire the reluctant entry on the scoresheet as Youssef En-Nesyri’s header deflected off him and rolled into the bottom corner to leave Old Trafford shell-shocked.
The night had began in serene fashion for United, with Casemiro back in the side after four matches out with suspension and Anthony Martial starting for the first time in three months. Jadon Sancho had the ball in the net inside 30 seconds, though the offside flag had been raised by the time he wheeled away in celebration.
With Sevilla defending like a side just five points off the relegation zone in La Liga and on their third manager of the season, the opening goal never felt far away. It came as Fernandes played the ball through to Sabitzer, and he looped an effort over Bono with the help of a slight deflection.
Who would score the goals in the absence of the injured Marcus Rashford was likely a question that has run through Ten Hag’s mind on more than one occasion in recent days, and whether or not Sabitzer was the name that then popped up, it was the on-loan midfielder who delivered.
Anthony Martial slid the pass through to him, and on this occasion Sabitzer needed no assistance in doubling his and United’s tally. Less than an eighth of the tie had been played, yet it felt close to being over.
A sour note came in the form of a yellow card for Fernandes, who picked up the harshest of yellow cards for a handball as he slid in to block a shot, a matter of minutes after Erik Lamela had avoided a red for a stamp on Casemiro. Fernandes will miss the second leg through suspension, while Raphael Varane was withdrawn at the break with injury.
United had chances to extend their advantage in the second-half, as Antony cut inside in trademark fashion but was denied by the far post, before Malacia had an effort blocked as the hosts attempted to walk the ball into the net.
Two minutes later, the lead was halved. Malacia made a huge error in letting the ball bounce inside him with Navas lurking, and his attempts to make up for it amounted to an own goal as the attempted cut-back deflected off him and then De Gea.
Lisandro Martinez was forced off just after that goal after going down off the ball with what appeared to be a serious injury, and he was carried off the pitch by Argentina team-mates Marcos Acuna and Gonzalo Montiel, leaving United down to ten men.
The hosts’ woes grew yet further in stoppage time as the ultimate sucker punch was landed. En-Nesyri’s header was destined to end up closer to the corner flag than the back of the net, but instead found a home in the corner of De Gea’s goal after hitting Maguire square in the face.