Manchester United were left owing yet another debt of gratitude to their brilliant goalkeeper after squeezing a laboured goalless draw out of the first leg of their Champions League last-16 tie with Sevilla.
With the Ramon Sanchez Pizjuan in fine voice, the match ebbed and flowed without either team really seizing the initiative in what was essentially rather dull fare.
Paul Pogba started on the bench for United after being struck down by illness on Monday, but the groggy French midfielder was introduced much earlier than planned when Ander Herrera limped off with just 16 minutes gone.
Not that Pogba’s premature introduction made much in the way of tangible impact on a night where Jose Mourinho’s side, obviously under instruction to keep things conservative away from home, mustered just one solitary effort on target.
Indeed, it was David De Gea who provided the sole memorable moment of the match, pulling off one of his signature reflex saves to swat away Luis Muriel’s close-range header in first-half stoppage time…
De Gea’s importance to United really cannot be understated. The Spaniard has made more saves than any first-choice ‘keeper in the Premier League this season, which is remarkable when you twig that he plays for the team sitting in second place.
Imagine just how dreary United’s season might look without the uber-reliable De Gea and his immense contribution to keeping their results respectable.
Back in Andalusia, Romelu Lukaku did force a shot over the Sevilla line in the 83rd minute, but only after blatantly catching the ball in the build-up.
That was about it from United’s attack, despite Lukaku, Alexis Sanchez, Marcus Rashford, Juan Mata and Anthony Martial all getting a run out.
We suppose the positive to take away is that United successfully kept another clean sheet in Europe – their fourth in seven outings this campaign.
Indeed, only Barcelona have amassed more shut-outs in all competitions across Europe’s ‘Big Five’ leagues so far this season.
And so, both United and Sevilla will now reconvene at Old Trafford for the second leg next month with a clean slate to work from.
Surely – surely – you’d fancy United to get the job done on home soil?