Manchester United will take on Spanish side Villarreal in the Europa League final on Wednesday evening at the Stadion Energa Gdańsk. We will aim to seek our second success in the competition in the past five seasons. The game kicks off at 20:00PM BST. It can be watched live on BT Sport 1 and their YouTube channel with coverage starting at 18:30PM.
Finishing the season with a flourish
Whilst the Red Devils might be more associated with the Champions League, it is UEFA’s second tier competition that represents our chance to lift some silverware this season. Our record in European finals is positive overall. It is our 11th season involved overall in the Europa League or previously under the guise of the UEFA Cup. Our record in this competition is not the best going all the way back to 1976/77.
However, we did achieve success in the competition back in the 2016/17 season when Jose Mourinho was in charge at the club. It was thanks to goals from Paul Pogba and Henrikh Mkhitaryan that gave us a 2-0 win over Ajax in Stockholm. This is the last time we reached a European final as we had bowed out at the semi-final stages of the Europa League last season.
United had managed to delay the coronation of our rivals Manchester City being Premier League champions for weeks on end. However, we did confirm second place in the league despite our dip in form. We had faced three games within five days during the course of this month.
Manager Ole Gunnar Solskjær had already one eye on the final in Gdansk as he placed his faith in the younger players for the final Premier League fixture away to Wolves. His team selection paid off as an Anthony Elanga header and a Juan Mata penalty ended the season on a high with a 2-1 win.
We had only taken one point in the previous three league games before sealing victory at Molineux. United had been defeated in the second leg of their semi-final against Roma. However, our performance in the first leg ensured we went through. Roma had been hit with a number of injuries in the first leg at Old Trafford and had gone in with a 2-1 lead at half time. The Red Devils then hit them for six before suffering a 3-2 defeat in Rome during the second leg.
Since our exit in the Champions League group stages back in December, United have been favourites to go all the way in the Europa League. We could follow in our league rivals Chelsea footsteps, who in 2013 won the Europa League after going out of UEFA’s elite competition.
Before the defeat against Roma, the Red Devils had five wins from seven knockout matches. It is more impressive given that Real Sociedad and AC Milan were no easy ties. A win over Granada in the quarter-finals means that United know how to overcome Spanish sides on the European stage.
Ole Gunnar Solskjær who still has his doubters, and their voices will certainly be silenced if we achieve victory on Wednesday evening to claim the trophy.
Manchester United Team News
For United, all eyes are focused on the fitness of Harry Maguire. The defender has been nursing an ankle injury since the victory against Aston Villa. It is touch and go if he will make the Europa League final. Solskjær said in the pre-match conference that “Harry is just going to jog up and down the sideline a bit I reckon.” Whether he takes part in the training session remains to be seen. Ole will give him all the time as he will name his team for the final on the day.
It is likely that Eric Bailly and Victor Lindelof would be the centre back partnership if Maguire is not fit. Though Bailly did require treatment after a training session earlier today. If it is serious, then Axel Tuanzebe could step in his place. David De Gea is expected to be in goal over Dean Henderson.
Aaron Wan-Bissaka and Luke Shaw are expected to reprise their roles in the defence after being left out against Wolves. The midfield duo is likely to be that of Scott McTominay and Fred. Anthony Martial is definitely out even though he has returned to first team training, this game has again come too soon for him to participate. Marcus Rashford and Paul Pogba will come in to replace Amad Diallo and Daniel James who featured at the weekend.
Bruno Fernandes will lead the creativity as he sits behind in the number 10 role. Mason Greenwood and Edinson Cavani will be well-rested as they push to spearhead the United attack. The veteran Uruguayan is likely to start, having scored three goals in his last five European games.
Manchester United’s Predicted Lineup
De Gea; Wan-Bissaka, Lindelof, Bailly, Shaw; Fred, McTominay; Rashford, Fernandes, Pogba; and Cavani.
Villarreal have an impressive record of 12 wins and two draws from their 14 Europa League games this season. They might be the underdogs going into the final but Emery has the knowhow in winning this competition before with Sevilla. United cannot underestimate our Spanish opponents otherwise we will be punished for any mistakes we make on the pitch.
They are the 11th different Spanish side to book their place in the European final. History is also in their favour as English teams have now lost nine times in a row when facing Spanish sides in the final. In addition, Villarreal has scored in 13 of their 14 games in the competition this season. The only time they did not score was the draw against Arsenal in the semi-final stages. Gerard Moreno has hit six goals and had four assists on route to the final.
Unai Emery failed in his bid to secure four Europa League wins with Arsenal when Chelsea beat them 4-1 in the 2018/19 final and will want to go one step further this time. Villarreal have already produced the goods against one English side already in the competition this season. The Spanish side deserves respect from a United team who have previously tasted success in this tournament.
Villarreal Team News
For our opponents, Samuel Chukwueze has not been ruled out of the final by manager Unai Emery. Though he did not feature in the final league game against Real Madrid, it is likely he will not feature in the final either. Juan Foyth who is on loan from Tottenham is also facing a race to be fit for the showpiece event. This would see Mario Gaspar continue on the right hand side of the defence.
Carlos Bacca and Paco Alcacer are both pushing to be the one to partner forward Gerard Moreno up top. Etienne Capoue who was suspended for the semi-final second leg against Arsenal is expected to return and partner Dani Parejo in the midfield. Unai Emery has a choice when it comes to his goalkeeper. Geronimo Rulli was not that convincing in both legs of the semi-finals and so may decide to choose Sergio Asenjo in goal instead.
Manchester United Europa League form: DWWWWL
Manchester United form (all competitions): LWLLDW
Villarreal Europa League form: WWWWWD
Villarreal form (all competitions): WDLWWL
- Villarreal and Manchester United will face each other for the fifth time, with each of the previous four meetings finishing 0-0 in the UEFA Champions League between 2005-06 and 2008-09. Manchester United have faced Villarreal more times without ever scoring than they have any other opponent in their history. (source: Opta)
- This will be Manchester United’s eighth major European final, the second-most of any English club after Liverpool (14). They have been crowned winners in five of the previous seven finals, losing only against Barcelona in the UEFA Champions League in both 2008-09 and 2010-11. (source: Opta)
- Manchester United manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer will contest only his second final in his managerial career, having won the 2013 Norwegian Cup with Molde. Solskjaer would be the first Norwegian manager to win a major European trophy. (source: Opta)
- Aged 19 years and 237 days on the day of the final, Manchester United’s Mason Greenwood could become only the second English teenager to score in a major UEFA European final after Brian Kidd, who scored on his 19th birthday for Manchester United in the 1968 European Cup final against Benfica. (source: Opta)
There will be 9,500 fans inside the stadium to witness the Europa League final in Gdansk. If United were to win, it would be the first trophy under manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer and would cap off a good season for us. Villarreal must not be underestimated but with our attacking prowess, it should see us bring back the trophy to Manchester.
Prediction: Manchester United 2-1 Villarreal