Seville : David de Gea deflected the attention away from Paul Pogba with another spectacular display of goalkeeping as Manchester United came away from their Champions League last 16, first leg against Sevilla in Spain with a 0-0 draw.
De Gea made two breathtaking saves to deny Steven N’Zonzi and Luis Muriel at the end of the first half at the Ramon Sanchez Pizjuan, denying Sevilla a lead to take to England for next month’s return.
Sevilla were the more likely side, with United offering little going forward despite the presence of Alexis Sanchez, Romelu Lukaku and Juan Mata in their attack.
Lukaku had a late goal disallowed, but United’s was the kind of cautious approach seen time and again in such games by Mourinho’s teams down the years.
Their inability, unwillingness even, to get an away goal leaves the tie wide open ahead of the second leg, with United looking to reach the quarter-finals in their first appearance in the knockout stage of the Champions League since 2014.
“The only moment where we felt relieved was in the last couple of moments of the first half when from a couple of our mistakes in possession they had a couple of good situations and De Gea made good saves,” said Mourinho.
His team managed just one attempt on target to Sevilla’s eight, but Mourinho added: “Apart from that the game was even, but the statistics are what they are.
Mourinho decided to leave Pogba out of his starting line-up, despite the Frenchman being back in the squad after illness had kept him out of United’s FA Cup win at Huddersfield Town.
Fuelling the speculation of an uneasy relationship between Mourinho and the France midfielder, the United manager chose to select 21-year-old Scott McTominay ahead of Pogba in a midfield three.
De Gea made one good early save low down to deny Colombian Muriel, while Jesus Navas, impressive at right-back, fired just wide after latching onto Ever Banega’s cross-field pass.
Stepping up the pressure just before half-time, Joaquin Correa’s shot from a good position was too easy for De Gea, but the Spain ‘keeper displayed all his class as he kept out headed attempts from N’Zonzi and Muriel from point-blank range, both saves requiring breathtaking reactions.
The importance to United of not letting in a goal was clear — they had kept eight clean sheets in their 10 matches before heading to Andalusia, with their only defeats in that time coming in the two games in which they had conceded.
And they were content to leave Spain with a 0-0 draw, continuing to soak up pressure in the second half and relying on Sevilla’s indecision in the final third.
Meanwhile, Shakhtar Donetsk recovered from a deficit to defeat AS Roma 2-1 in their first-leg knockout stage tie.
Towards the end of an action-packed first half here on Wednesday, Roma put on the pressure and it paid off with a goal in the 41st minute by Cengiz Ãonder, with a key assist from Edin Dzeko.