Not even the most ardent Manchester United fan could complain with the outcome of their Champions League tie with Sevilla.
Substitute Wissam Ben Yedder added an 18-minute cutting-edge Los Rojiblancos had lacked across the previous 162 to fire his side into the quarterfinals of the tournament. Not since 1958 had the Andalusian giants advanced so far into Europe’s premier club competition.
Few would argue this is a vintage Sevilla side; languishing in 5th place in La Liga and 11 points off fourth-placed Valencia, they have stumbled and lacked identity firstly under Eduardo Berizzo and latterly Vincenzo Montella.
They have conceded five goals on five separate occasions this season of which three of which came under the Italian, who was appointed in January.
However, despite all their ongoing issues they remain in the Champions League as giants such as United, Paris Saint-Germain and Atletico Madrid have all fallen by the wayside.
The celebrations and unbridled joy after the match both in the stands and on the pitch demonstrated the bond the players have formed with the club, who have once again demonstrated their ability to excel in cup tournaments.
Sevilla have won a record five Europa League titles but even more remarkably, this came within the space of a decade with three consecutive trophies between 2014 and 2016.
Since their first European crown, they have also lifted the Copa del Rey twice and last month booked their fourth final in the competition since 2006.
In an era of Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo, and when Barcelona and Real Madrid’s unrivalled wealth accelerated to greater financial discrepancy, such achievements are nothing short of remarkable.
Sevilla are a club built on passion and a sense of belonging but their recent success threatened to unravel with the departure of long-serving sporting director Monchi to Roma last season.
Widely credited as engineering the success in Seville, he was appointed with the club in Spain’s second tier and, after immediately securing promotion, the club have finished in the top half in each of the 17 seasons since.
Monchi transformed the club from a cash-strapped basket-case to a model of modernity and progression, building an unrivalled scouting system and recruitment setup.
His long-serving ally Oscar Arias is now occupying the role and whilst questions have arisen with a notable drop in league performances this year, the club have rekindled their magic in cup competitions.
It cannot be forgotten that this is a side who battled to a draw at Anfield and memorably recovered from three goals down to draw with Liverpool in the return. Then in the Copa, Montella’s men defied the odds to beat Atletico Madrid both home and away.
Upon joining Roma, Monchi reportedly remarked that his new job was more challenging as his new club had ‘significantly’ more funding and status within Europe.
The Italian capital club have the second smallest budget remaining in the Champions League, which should amplify Sevilla’s achievements to keep defying the odds.
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