Nemanja Matic has admitted that some Manchester United players were “very sad” following Tuesday night’s Champions League exit to Sevilla.
Jose Mourinho and his players came under scrutiny like never before this season following a performance devoid of ambition and penetration against the La Liga side.
But they produced a response against Brighton and Hove Albion, putting in a controlled – yet albeit meek at times – performance to claim a 2-0 win and book a trip to Wembley, with Matic claiming a goal and an assist.
And Matic, speaking after the game, made note of how important it was to claim the FA Cup following the trauma of their capitulation in Europe, which reportedly left some players in tears afterwards.
The record books will show that United responded well to Tuesday’s nightmare – a clean sheet and a goal in each half against a defensive resolute side – but anybody who watched that game will tell you that some demons were still lingering in the side’s collective psyche.
There was a palpable measure of flatness to their handling of the ball, as if some players were reluctant to do anything that might backfire and evince derision from the crowd.
Now – more than ever – is the time for experienced personalities like Matic to stand up and take responsibility going forward.