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Preview: Villarreal stand in the way of Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s first United trophy; Red Devils to win in Gdansk?

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Villarreal -v- Manchester United

UEFA Europa League Final

Stadion Energa Gdańsk, Gdańsk, Poland

Wednesday 26 May 2021, KO 20:00 BST

Referee: Clément Turpin Assistants: Nicolas Danos, Cyril Gringore

Fourth Official: Slavko Vinčić

VAR: François Letexier Assistant VAR: Jérôme Brisard, Benjamin Pages, Pol van Boekel

Manchester United will contend the UEFA Europa League with Villarreal at the Stadion Energa Gdańsk in Gdańsk, Poland on Wednesday evening. It is the second time that United have participated in the final of the competition in four years. Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has previously seen his side stutter in the semi-finals of cup competitions, seeing his side lose four of them before they knocked AS Roma out of the competition with a 8-5 aggregate victory earlier in the month. Villarreal have reached the final of the competition for the first time in the history of the club. Five English clubs have won this cup with four Spanish teams winning.

This match comes after a long and hard season for both teams. United finished second in the Premier League, exited the group stages of the UEFA Champions League, which is where they entered the Europa League, also reaching the semi-finals of the Carabao Cup and the quarter-finals of the Emirates FA Cup. Villarreal finished seventh in La Liga this season, putting them into the new UEFA Europa Conference League play-offs. They started in the group stages in the competition this season, playing 14 matches so far and are undefeated so far, winning 12 matches and drawing twice. They also reached the quarter-finals of the Copa del Rey.

Manchester United: WDLLWL

Wolverhampton Wanderers 2-1 W, Fulham 1-1 D, Liverpool 4-2 L, Leicester City 2-1 L, Aston Villa 3-1 W, AS Roma 3-2 L

Villarreal: LWWLDW

Real Madrid 2-1 L, Sevilla 4-0 W, Real Valladolid 2-0 W, Celta Vigo 4-2 L, Arsenal 0-0 D, Getafe 1-0 W

Top Scorers: Gerard Moreno (29 and Bruno Fernandes (28) top the goalscoers charts for Villarreal and United so far this season.

Manchester United Goals: 28 – Bruno Fernandes, 21 – Marcus Rashford, 16 – Edinson Cavani, 12 – Mason Greenwood, 7 – Anthony Martial, Scott McTominay, 6 – Paul Pogba, 5 – Own Goal, Daniel James, 3 – Juan Mata, 2 – Harry Maguire, Aaron Wan-Bissaka, 1 – Amad Diallo, Anthony Elanga, Fred, Victor Lindelof, Luke Shaw, Donny van de Beek

United have had a largely positive season, considering how it started. One of the most strenuous parts of the season was the Ole Out brigade on Twitter who seemed to stay silent when United won, which at a stage of the season was for a long period of time, yet when there was a defeat or a draw, they seemed to come out in force, at least on social media, calling for the manager to be sacked. Which was reactionary and very laughable. When United won, it was because of individual players, but when they lost, it wast Solskjaer’s fault. However, United finished second in the league and have this final, which still won’t be good enough for them.

Villarreal Goals: 29 – Gerard Moreno, 12 – Paco Alcácer, 8 – Carlos Bacca, 5 – Samuel Chukwueze, Fernando Niño, 4 – Moi Gómez, Yeremi Pino, 3 – Daniel Parejo, Pau Torres, 2 – Raúl Albiol, Álex Baena, Manu Trigueros, 1 – Etienne Capoue, Juan Foyth, Takefusa Kubo, Alfonso Pedraza, Rubén Peña

Villarreal have done a lot better in the cup competitions than they have in La Liga this season. They finished seventh in the league, which will keep them out of the UEFA Champions League and the UEFA Europa League, but they have qualified, at least for the play-off to feature in the new competition, the UEFA Europa Conference League. Villarreal also reached the quarter-finals of the Copa del Rey and perhaps their best feat this season, reaching the final of the Europa League where they are so far undefeated, winning 12 matches and drawing twice. This could be a tough match for United, but one that they could win.

Team News: Harry Maguire remains a doubt for United, along with Anthony Martial and Phil Jones is ruled out. Villarreal will be sweating on the fitness of Samuel Chukwueze ahead of the UEFA Europa League final.

At this moment in time, and it could well change, Phil Jones (knee) is the only player to be ruled out of the UEFA Europa League final against Villarreal. Fred (knock) has a 75% chance of being fit for the match, Anthony Martial (knee) has a 25% chance of being fit for the match and Harry Maguire (ankle) who is the biggest loss for the club at this stage of the season, also has a 25% chance of being fit for the clash. However, that said, it seems unlikely, unless Solskjaer is playing a massive mind game, that he will be fit. It has been stated that Maguire will be given until Tuesday/Wednesday to prove his fitness for the match.

Vicente Iborra (cruciate ligament rupture), Juan Foyth (muscular) and Samuel Chukwueze (hamstring) are the main doubts for Villarreal ahead of the Europa League final. Iborra has already been ruled out, suffering his injury in December, so he was not part of the clubs squad in the competition since January. Foyth and Chukwueze could both recover in time for the final, but that is something that remains to be seen. Villarreal have a good squad ahead of the final and despite their La Liga finish, have been positive this season, especially in this competition where they remain undefeated in all 14 matches played.

Predicted Starting XI: Edinson Cavani, Paul Pogba, Bruno Fernandes and Mason Greenwood to lead United’s attack against Villarreal?

Solskjaer will have probably picked his team for the Europa League final many weeks ago and most will not be shocked by the players that he sticks with as the majority of them have been performing well with others hitting form at the right time. The biggest loss could be Harry Maguire, who might not win his race to fitness and that will be a massive shame. However, four years ago when United last played in the final of the competition, they were without Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Eric Bailly and Marcos Rojo. United will always have to deal with things like this and the club will end up getting through it. Come on United.

Match Prediction: United and Villarreal have met four times in the UEFA Champions League group stages in the past, with neither team winning a match, or scoring a single goal.

Manchester United and Villarreal have met four times in European competition. All of the meetings have been in the UEFA Champions League in the group stage with the two clubs meeting in the 2005/06 season and the 2008/09 season. Neither team have won any of the matches with neither team scoring a single goal with four 0-0 draws the result between the two clubs. I makes the UEFA Europa League final even more unknown as both teams will be seeking to be the victors for the first time. Both Ole Gunnar Solskjaer and Unai Emery will be determined to be the first manager of their respective clubs to win for the first time.

This season in the Europa League, United have faced two Spanish teams; Real Sociedad in which they won 4-0 inn the first leg, which was played at the Juventus Stadium in Turin with Bruno Fernandes scoring a brace, plus goals from Marcus Rashford and Daniel James. The second leg was a 0-0 draw at Old Trafford. United then met Granada inn the quarter-finals, winning 2-0 in both legs (4-0 on aggregate) with Rashford and Fernandes scoring in the first leg and Edinson Cavani and an own goal from Jesús Vallejo. Villarreal will be the third Spanish team United will have faced in the Europa League this season.

Villarreal 2-3 Manchester United

Written by John Walker

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