Manchester United manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has told his players that it is the time to step up in Sunday’s UEFA Europa League semi-final against Sevilla in Cologne. United earned their place in the last four of the competition with a 1-0 extra time victory over FC Copenhagen on Monday evening in which Anthony Martial won a 94th minute penalty which was scored by Bruno Fernandes, his 11th goal of the season for United. It will be the third semi-final United have appeared in this season.
United reached the semi-final of the Carabao Cup, which was a two-legged tie. Solskjaer’s side lost 3-1 at Old Trafford but won 1-0 at the Etihad, losing 3-2 on aggregate with City reaching the final, beating Aston Villa 2-1 at Wembley on the 1 March 2020. United then reached the semi-final of the Emirates FA Cup and were beaten 3-1 by Chelsea in a match that David De Gea will not be happy to watch back. It was a poor result for United. Could it be third time lucky for United?
Sevilla are currently on a 19-match unbeaten run with United beaten once in 24 matches – both teams will be weary of facing each other in this match. This will be United’s second semi-final appearance in the Europa League – in the 2016/17 season, they beat Celta Vigo 1-0 in the first leg then drew 1-1, winning 2-1 on aggregate in a difficult two matches. United went to their first Europa League final, beating Ajax 2-0. Sevilla have made five semi-final appearances, winning them all and winning all five finals, winning two in consecutive years (2005/06 and 2006/07) when winning three in a row (2013/14, 2014/15, and 2015/16).
Solskjaer will not have been happy with United’s performance against FC Copenhagen on Monday evening with many underestimating the Danish side, who dealt with United very well. The Norwegian manager will be expecting the likes of Anthony Martial, Marcus Rashford, Paul Pogba and Bruno Fernandes to perform in this match, carrying United to the final, which will either be against Inter Milan or Shakhtar Donetsk. United have the players to do the business but so do Sevilla so it will be a tough match for both teams. Speaking in his pre-match press conference on Saturday, Solskjaer, as reported by The Mirror, said:
“You know that when you come to a semi-final you’re playing against good teams, big teams with quality. So it’s time for big players to step up.
“In big games moments you need 100 per cent focus, because any little moment can win, lose or change the game and we’ve learnt it’s very painful to lose a semi-final.
“Sevilla are a good well organised team, always pressing, with very good individuals, so we’ll have to play our best game. We’ll need to keep the ball when we can, play out of their press, and we’ll have to be clever, creative and step up in big moments.
“These games will be decided so often on a set-piece or a piece of individual brilliance by some players. We’ve had a few good days now preparing and recovering. It’s not very often we have six days between games, so we’re ready.
“Physically, we’re definitely ready, and mentally the boys will be ready. It’s a semi-final so everyone will want to take part. I just want them to enjoy it and for me, I’m looking forward to it. We’ve been to two semis this season.
“We’re happy with going as far as we have, but we want to go one step further.”
Bruno Fernandes is the top scorer in the UEFA Europa League so far this season, scoring seven goals in the competition so far, assisting four more goals playing for both Sporting Clube de Portugal and United in the competition this season. Two of the goals and one assist have been scored whilst playing for United. Solskjaer feels the player is in full confidence as he talked about the acquisition of the player during the January transfer window, saying:
“When a club pays €55million for a player, I think you have the confidence from the club. The coach speaks to me all the time and has told me to play my game and do what I already did in Sporting – to have the same confidence, try the same things.”
Written by John Walker