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Preview: Solskjaer’s semi-final hoodoo must end against Roma with United showing their potential

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Manchester United -v- AS Roma

UEFA Europa League

Old Trafford, Manchester

Thursday 29 April 2021, KO 20:00 BST

Referee: Carlos del Cerro Grande Assistants: Juan Carlos Yuste, Roberto Alonso Fernandez 

Fourth Official: Jesús Gil Manzano

VAR: Alejandro Hernández Assistant VAR: Ricardo de Burgos

Manchester United return to UEFA Europa League action on Thursday evening when they welcome AS Roma to Old Trafford. This will be the fourth time the Italian club has been to the Theatre of Dreams and they have only lost there; one match 7-1 in the Champions League during the 2006/07 season. This Roma side won’t be as easy to overcome though and United will need to be at their best following the 0-0 draw against Leeds. That said, the Italian side are not inn the best for form, not winning any of their last four matches. But inn this competition, their Serie A form will go out of the window as they want to win.

United could find themselves up against both Chris Smalling and Henrikh Mkhitaryan, who both play for the Giallorossi. They will also face up against former Manchester City striker Edin Džeko and former Chelsea winger Pedro, who was one the radar of United under the management of Louis van Gaal. United will be looking to do things right in the semi-final this time, it being the sixth semi-final under Ole Gunnar Solskjaer and the second in the competition over the past two seasons. Solskjaer and United will want to win this trophy this season, getting his first across the line in his managerial career at the Old Trafford club.

Manchester United: DWWWWW

Leeds United 0-0 D, Burnley 3-1 W, Granada 2-0 W, Tottenham Hotspur 3-1 W, Granada CF 2-0 W, Brighton and Hove Albion 2-1 W

AS Roma: LDLDWW

Cagliari Calcio 3-2 L, Atalanta BC 1-1 D, Torino FC 3-1 L, AFC Ajax 1-1 D, Bologna FC 1909 1-0 W, AFC Ajax 2-1 W

Top Scorers: United have cleared more than 100 goals in all competitions this season and they will be the team to beat in the UEFA Europa League.

Manchester United Goals: 24 – Bruno Fernandes, 20 – Marcus Rashford, 10 – Edinson Cavani, 9 – Mason Greenwood, 7 – Anthony Martial, Scott McTominay, 5 – Own Goal, Daniel James, Paul Pogba, 2 – Harry Maguire, Juan Mata, Aaron Wan-Bissaka, 1 – Amad Diallo, Fred, Victor Lindelof, Luke Shaw, Donny van de Beek

United are undefeated in the last six matches, winning five and drawing once, which was that 0-0 draw against Leeds United on Sunday. It seems that United play a better brand of football when they don’t have a week’s rest, which seemed to be a positive before that boring Leeds clash. United have scored 12 goals, conceding three and keeping three clean sheets in their last six matches. United do need to find a way to get the goals flowing again, especially in this semi-final with United and Solskjaer seeking to end their semi-final hoodoo, failing to win five of them thus far in Solskjaer’s management of the club.

AS Roma Goals: 15 – Borja Mayoral, 11 – Edin Dzeko, Jordan Veretout, 10 – Henrikh Mkhitaryan, 7 – Lorenzo Pellegrini, 5 – Gianluca Mancini, Pedro, 3 – Carles Pérez, 2 – Ibañez, Marash Kumbulla, Bruno Peres, Leonardo Spinazzola, 1 – Riccardo Calafiori, Bryan Cristante, Amadou Diawara, Stephan El Shaarawy, Federico Fazio, Rick Karsdorp, Tommaso Milanese

AS Roma are not having the best domestic season having been knocked out of the Coppa Italia back in January by Spezia and with them sitting seventh in the Serie A in the position to reach the play-off stage of the new UEFA Europa Conference League next season, unless they start grinding out the results. In their past six matches, Roma have won twice, drawn twice and lost twice. Granted, they have made the semi-finals of the UEFA Europa League this season but that does not mean they are good enough to knock United out and win the trophy. If anything, their league form could come back to haunt them if United are in the mood to win.

Team News: Two players out for United – five could be absent for Roma. United will be seeking to reach the final of this competition for the first time since 2017.

Phil Jones (knee) and Anthony Martial (knee) are both ruled out through injury. United do not have any other injuries or doubts. Harry Maguire, Luke Shaw and Scott McTominay missed the quarter-final second leg against Granada after accruing too many yellow cards in the competition. The bookings were reset at the end of the quarter-final state, so no players, unless they were sent off, could miss the final, if the club gets there. The likes of David De Gea, Eric Bailly, Paul Pogba, Donny van de Beek and Edinson Cavani have been significantly rested with the latter three coming off the bench against Leeds United at the weekend.

Nicolò Zaniolo (cruciate ligament rupture), Riccardo Calafiori (bicep muscle), Pedro (bicep muscle) and Antonio Mirante (other) seem to be out of action for this match at Old Trafford whereas Gianluca Mancini is suspended after being booked in the quarter-final second leg, therefore missing the first leg of the semi-final. This could be crucial for Roma as they will be seeking to knock United out of the competition, reaching the final themselves. Former Manchester City striker Edin Džeko, Chelsea winger Pedro and former United player’s Chris Smalling and Henrikh Mkhitaryan could all feature against United.

Predicted Starting XI: Edinson Cavani and Mason Greenwood must start against Roma for the goals to start flowing. Bruno Fernandes, Paul Pogba, Donny van de Beek and Scott Mctominay could combine in midfield.

Solskjaer will need to change up a few things from the clash with Leeds United on Sunday, which was rather stagnant. I was surprised that Edinson Cavani, Paul Pogba and Donny van de Beek did not start, but perhaps Solskjaer was saving them for this match, as this is the competition United should be prioritising at this stage with it being their only chance of a trophy. Obviously, United will take on Liverpool at Old Trafford on Sunday and it goes without saying that they must challenge the Merseyside club this weekend, which could give themselves some more breathing room in second place in the Premier League.

Match Prediction: AS Roma have never beaten Manchester United at Old Trafford. United have won four times, drawn once and lost once in the six matches played between the two club.

United and Roma have met six times in the history of European competition, meeting each other in the UEFA Champions League and never in the UEFA Europa League. United have won four times, drawing once and losing once. The Red Devils have scored a total of 13 goals, conceding four and keeping three clean sheets. The first time the two clubs met was at the quarter-final stage of the Champion League during the 2006/07 season, losing 2-1 at the Stadio Olimpico but winning 7-1 (8-3 ons aggregate) at Old Trafford a week later. They then met in the group stages of the competition during the 2007/08 season, winning 1-0 at the Theatre of Dreams and drawing 1-1 at the Stadio Olimpico.

The last time United met Roma was in the quarter-final during the 2007/08 season, making it four meetings between the two clubs that season. United won 2-0 at the Stadio Olimpico, winning 1-0 (3-0 on aggregate) at Old Trafford, making the semi-finals that season where they beat Barcelona 1-0 on aggregate over two legs and went on the beat Chelsea on penalties in the final in Moscow. Ole Gunnar Solskjaer featured against Roma in the first two matches played. Wayne Rooney scored four goals, Cristiano Ronaldo scored three, Michael Carrick scored twice, with Patrice Evra Gerard Piqué, Alan Smith and Carlos Tevez all scoring once.

Manchester United 2-1 AS Roma

Written by John Walker

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