Sometimes stats just don’t matter.
Before their cunning, confident and ultimately thrilling win at Old Trafford, Sevilla had been beaten 7-0 at home by the two teams to visit the Ramón Sánchez Pizjuán since Jose Mourinho’s side drew 0-0 there a couple of weeks ago.
And it was also true that Sevilla went to Manchester never having qualified for the Champions League quarter-finals in their history. These weren’t auspicious facts.
Then there is form. After Tuesday it seems that even stinking, horrible, bootlaces-tied-together form doesn’t matter either.
Simon Kjaer was restored to the centre of Sevilla’s defence to face up to the Premier League behemoth, Romelu Lukaku, who had only just battered Liverpool’s Dejan Lovren into quivering submission.
Honestly? Kjaer has stunk the house out since joining Sevilla in the summer.
Five of his previous results, immediately prior to being restored to the team and applied to the visitors’ central defence like elastoplast on a hemorrhage, were losing 5-0 to Madrid, 5-3 to Betis, 1-0 to Alaves and 3-1 to Real Sociedad. With him in the team, surely Sevilla were there for the taking?
Then, just to add to the list, pundits’ opinions don’t matter either.
At half-time from Old Trafford Paul Scholes used his TV studio position to suggest that Sevilla were a “very poor” team and that United “had” to beat them. That followed Ray Wilkins’ infamous (and risible) declaration that Sevilla would be a “bottom six” team if they were in the Premier League.
But, suddenly, Vincenzo Montella’s team had scored twice and they were in the quarter-final. Daddy Warbucks United were out.
During the match my eye was drawn to Sir Alex Ferguson up in the Old Trafford main stand.
I’ve seen a great deal of Wissam Ben Yedder since he signed for Sevilla and I’ve also interviewed him a couple of times.
Long before he scored those two crackers to stun Europe, and damage Mourinho’s already tarnished reputation, I thought of him as Sevilla’s Joey Harper.
King Joey, I adore. He was the shape he was supposed to be. But, like the barrel-shaped Frenchman who made Sevilla history on Tuesday, looks can be deceptive.
Joey had talent to burn. Footballing ability – not just the handy knack of scoring goals.
A smashing, bright football brain he had, too.
Now Ben Yedder may not be in King Joey’s class.
But I’ll bet you a pound to a penny that when he trotted on in the 72nd minute his diminutive height, ample top body and preference for jogging into intelligent positions rather than haring around like a headless chicken reminded Fergie of a guy he eventually “lapped in pre-season training” but who he subsequently described as one of the most talented footballers he’s ever coached.
In the day before the first game in Seville, which ended 0-0, Ben Yedder, his team-mates and I were all holed up in the same hotel.
The former Toulouse centre-forward knew he was out of favour with his new Italian coach, Montella, who’d made it clear that not only was Luis “I’ll run like a puppy after a tennis ball” Muriel first choice … but that under the new Italian regime Ben Yedder was required to lose a kilo or two.
Lounging on a first-floor couch, mid-afternoon, as I wandered past him, Ben Yedder looked like the brother of a player – or a fan. Bit pudgy, unathletic, overly-friendly with the fridge.
I happened to be watching Sevilla’s 2-1 win with a former Ipswich and Leicester centre-forward who’s a United fan.
I’d warned him that Ben Yedder didn’t look much but could score blindfolded, manacled to a five-ton concrete block and wearing slippers instead of boots. It’s just innate.
Even as Ben Yedder trotted on I could see that the 27-year-old has taken Montella’s words to heart and shed a pound or two.
Three hundred and thirty two seconds later he’d scored twice.
Just in case you didn’t know it, wee Wissam had thus scored the fastest brace of goals in Champions League history.
It reminded me of what his Toulouse coach, Pascal Dupraz, said about him after the French club unwillingly let him replace Kevin Gameiro at Sevilla.
Dupraz’s words? “He’s not really a No9, he’s not strong, he’s not tall but he’s got a brilliant first touch, he’s explosive, he’s lethal in the last 15m.
“He scores brilliantly off either foot, his control beats defenders on its own … with the exception of Zlatan Ibrahimovic the French league hasn’t seen a better scorer than him in recent years.”
As all players who have to battle weight in order to convince a coach do, the hero of the hour tugged his shirt off to celebrate that (definitive) second goal.
Post-match he interrupted his own live TV interview to sing the Sevilla “anthem”, which is so utterly brilliant.
That’s him – never having to buy a drink in Seville in his life because of the goals, and his grandchildren and even his great grandchildren’s neighbours not having to buy a drink ever, either, because wee Wissam sang the Sevilla song live to the watching world.
All of this was kudos to the man who is Roma’s football director, Monchi, but who signed Ben Yedder for Sevilla, left a list behind him at his former club recommending Montella as the “next coach in” if Eduardo Berizzo failed and who should have a statue of him built at Los Rojiblancos’ training ground.
Then there’s the pedantic factual part to finish with. Sevilla have never before made the Champions league quarter-finals but did so in the old European Cup exactly 60 years ago.
Or does history not matter either?
What a game. What a week.