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Ratings: Cavani equaliser felt good; penalties not so much; I feel for De Gea

Manchester United were beaten 11-10 on penalties after a 1-1 draw playing two hours of football. Gerard Moreno opened the scoring in the 29th minute of the match with Edinson Cavani equalising ten minutes into the second half. Marcus Rashford had a chance to take the lead in the second half but he missed. The penalties were interesting and seeing each team score ten in a row was immense but when David De Gea stepped up, I had a feeling that he would miss, which is what happened. It is unfortunate but it happens. United will now pick themselves up, dust themselves off and get ready for the Euro’s and next season.

It was a pretty even start to the UEFA Europa League final with both sides aiming to start well. I don’t have much confidence in the United defence as Eric Bailly has not really been at his best recently and has spend much of his time on the bench but did play in the final Premier League match of the season on Sunday. Scott McTominay had a chance in the seventh minute of the match but missed the target. There really did not seem to be much aggression from United but any attacks they made seemed to be covered by Villarreal, who had everything covered when they needed to, which was good for them – not for United.

United started to get better on the attack but Villarreal were also progressing forward and giving United many different problems. In the 29th minute of the match, Villarreal took the lead through Gerard Moreno, who had scored his 30th goal in all competitions this season. Daniel Parejo played the ball into the forward with only David De Gea to beat but he did not get a great connection on the ball but did enough to beak the United goalkeeper and put his team in the lead. At that time, United seemed down and out and somewhat dejected. Solskjaer was not all the impressed on the sideline after the goal.

United started to progress into attacking positions again after conceding but Villarreal seemed to have it all covered but United were also not playing to the best of their abilities. Bruno Fernandes looked frustrated, as he is a perfectionist and will be seeking to change the game. It was a hairy last ten minutes or so of the first half with Villarreal playing to a certain swagger and United still not rising to the challenge. The half time team talk was probably going to be something reminiscent of Sir Alex Ferguson’s hairdryer, which was probably not something the team were looking forward to, but something need to give. Villarreal left at the break.

At the start of the second half, there were no changes for either team, when perhaps there could have been at least one for United. Harry Maguire made the bench but it is yet unknown as to how much of a part he could play, if at all but there was a reason that he was put on the bench and perhaps it would be revealed as the game goes on? Ten minutes into the second half, United had got themselves back into the game through none other that Edinson Cavani, who scored his 17th goal of the season. Luke Shaw played a part in the goal after a corner was cleared to him, he found Scott McTominay who had a touch before Cavani took over and scored.

United did have a penalty shout before they scored but VAR looked at it and gave nothing. It seemingly took longer for VAR to give United’s equaliser than it did to look at the possible penalty. Since the equaliser, United had many attacking chances but the finishing was not as good as it should have been. The Villarreal from the first half were not all that present in the second half with United getting more of the chances – I am not saying Villarreal did nothing but there was nothing that could have won them the match. They made some changes but it was not putting them in the position to win and United still had five substitutions to their advantage.

Despite the chances in the second half, there were no further goals in the second half resulting in the match going into extra time. There were still no substitutions for United, which was unbelievable giving the suggestion that the team was in a good period of peak fitness. Marcus Rashford had the best chance in the second half but did not fire his effort on target, which was a shame to see. The luck really is not there for him at this time. Villarreal seemed to be fresh in the first half of extra time with United also looking to cause some damage with Cavani needing a split second to find a goal. Fred replaced Mason Greenwood in the 100th minute.

There were no further substitutions at the start of the second half of extra time. United were under pressure and Villarreal looked the freshest, having made five substitutions in the second half of the match. United made a double substitution in the 116th minute of the match with Axel Tuanzebe and Daniel James replacing Eric Bailly and Paul Pogba. There was so much tension in the match coming to the end of extra time. Luke Shaw seemed to be down with a knock and less then two minutes of time remaining. Juan Mata and Alex Telles were the final substitutions, replacing Scott McTominay and Aaron Wan-Bissaka.

It was 1-1 after extra time and penalties would decide the result of this match. Gerard Moreno took the first penalty, finding the back of the net. Juan Mata took the second, finding the back of the net. 1-1. Danial Raba took the third, scoring. Alex Telles took the fourth, scoring. 2-2. Paco Alcácer took the fifth, De Gea almost saved it. Bruno Fernandes took the sixth, scoring it with the goalkeeper close to making the save. 3-3. Alverto Moreno took the seventh, scoring. Marcus Rashford too the eighth, scoring it. 4-4 and into sudden death. Daniel Parejo took the ninth, scoring it. Edinson Cavani took the tenth, scoring it. 5-5.

Proper sudden death. Moi Gomez took the eleventh, scoring. Fred took the twelfth, scoring it. 6-6. Raúl Albion took the thirteenth, scoring it. Daniel James took the fourteenth, scoring it. 7-7. Francis Coquelin took the fifteenth, scoring it. Luke Shaw took the sixteenth, just squeezing in past the keeper. 8-8. Mario Gaspar took the seventeenth, scoring it although De Gea had his hand to it. Axel Tuanzebe took the eighteenth, scoring it. 9-9. Pau Torres took the nineteenth, scoring it. Victor Lindelof took the twentieth, scoring it. 10-10. Gerónimo Rulli too the twenty-first, scoring it. David De Gea took the twenty-second, missing it. Villarreal win 11-10.

Manchester United

1 David De Gea

I feel the defence let him down, which says more about the summer ahead. Moreno's goal was a weak one to concede. He did not have much to do from there until the penalty shootout, saving none and missing his penalty. Gutted for him.

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29 Aaron Wan-Bissaka

Not the best in attacking positions putting crosses into teammates. Needs improvement there or a rival that can do this.

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3 Eric Bailly

Seemed solid in places but clumsy in others. Didn't do much wrong and was not culpable for the goal. Replaced by Tuanzebe in the 116th minute.

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2 Victor Lindelof

Failed to do his job to stop Moreno. Not good enough without Maguire and cannot rely on another player to make him better - needs to do it himself. Scored a good penalty though.

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23 Luke Shaw

Saw the brunt of Solskjaer after the goal with Moreno getting the better of him. His performance level was not as up there as it had been this season. His penalty somehow found the back of the net.

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39 Scott McTominay

Had a good shot on goal but missed. Put in a good disciplined display and helped get things going for United. Got the assist for Cavani's goal.

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6 Paul Pogba

Seemed up for the challenge but soon dwindled. Should have played on the left-wing where he could get amongst it. Replaced by James in the 116th minute.

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11 Mason Greenwood

Tried to grasp the game by the neck and create something. Seemed determined. Put the effort in but was replaced by Fred in the 100th minute,

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18 Bruno Fernandes

Not the best performance. Seemed annoyed at the predicament United were in. Seemed annoyed that his efforts did not see more goals scored. Took a great penalty - he's had plenty of practice this season. He should use this as a driving point.

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10 Marcus Rashford

Seemed well off his game but that has been seen for weeks. Missed a good opportunity to put United ahead in the second half. Scored his penalty.

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21 Edinson Cavani

Was the most capable player of scoring and scored. However there were missed opportunities. Tucked his penalty away on a nervy evening. Will be annoyed and upset a trophy did not come back to Manchester.

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Substitutes

17 Fred

Replaced Greenwood 100'. Used his energy well but did not really help change the game. Scored his penalty.

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Ratings: Cavani equaliser felt good; penalties not so much; I feel for De Gea

Replaced Pogba 116'. Added pace. Scored a great penalty. Will be disappointed United lost.

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38 Axel Tuanzebe

Replaced Bailly 116'. Solid in defence. Perhaps should have started. Scored his penalty.

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8 Juan Mata

Replaced McTominay 120+3'. Came on at the death. Scored his penalty which will mean a lot.

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27 Alex Telles

Replaced Wan-Bissaka 120+3'. Same as Mata. Scored his penalty and celebrated it.

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Goals: Gerard Moreno 29′; Edinson Cavani 55′

Assists: Daniel Parejo 29′; Scott McTominay 55′

Manchester United: De Gea; Wan-Bissaka, Bailly, Lindelof, Shaw; McTominay, Pogba; Greenwood (Fred 100′), Fernandes, Rashford; Cavani

Substitutes Not Used: Grant, Henderson; Maguire, Williams, Telles, Tuanzebe; Mata, Amad, James, Matic, Van de Beek

Bookings: Etienne Capoue 54′, Juan Foyth 84′; Eric Bailly 82′, Edinson Cavani 113′

Written by John Walker

One Day in May: Ole Gunnar Solskjaer from Player to Manager; the 26 May could become a Special Day…

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer joined Manchester United on the 26 July 1996 from Norwegian side Molde for just £1.5 million, just 10% of the £15 million fee that United’s main target, Alan Shearer joined Newcastle United for, which at the time was a world record transfer. Solskjaer was a relatively unknown striker and was considered a gamble at that time, especially when the rumours were that Shearer was the target, coming off the back of a largely successful UEFA Euro 1996 tournament, where he won the Golden Boot after scoring five goals for England, who saw yet more hurt 30 years after lifting the World Cup at Wembley, beaten on penalties at the hands of Germany, who went on to win the tournament that summer.

Solskjaer, just 23 at the time he signed for United, was expected to be the backup striker for Eric Cantona and Andy Cole, but almost instantly became a first team player that would ultimately prove to become one of the bargain signings in the Premier League that summer. It really is good when a plan works – but they don’t tend to more often, which is a shame. The Norwegian spent five seasons with Clausengen as a younger player before moving to Molde during the 1995 season, playing a total of 54 times, scoring 41 goals for the club. Solskjaer was offered to both Everton and Manchester City for just £1.2 million with neither club willing to take the hit on the player, should hen not have been successful in England. I bet it still leaves a bitter taste now.

Solskjaer netted 19 goals in 46 appearances in his debut season at United. I bet City and Everton were annoyed at missing out on such a bargain but also German side Hamburg and Italian side Cagliari held interest in the player, which ceased after United’s bid. Fairytales don’t tend to happen all that often but there was something with Solskjaer and fairytales that was yet some time in the future. During his debut season, United won the FA Community Shield, also winning the Premier League for the fourth time, also winning the league the season before. In total, Solskjaer won the Premier League six times with United as a player, which was great to see. His playing career ended with a knee injury, for which he underwent minor surgery but he did not fully recover. Solskjaer scored 126 goals, assisting 50 times in 365 appearances for United during his career.

Added to his six Premier League titles, Solskjaer also won the FA Cup twice, two FA Community Shields, one UEFA Champions League and one Intercontinental Cup. It was a career that he would have been proud of and all for £1.5 million, which today would not get a club much – even youth players command bigger fees in this era of modern football. I would not have changed anything. At the time, Shearer signing for Newcastle hurt but it was understandable. Solskjaer was a gamble that paid off so many times. There were many matches in which he could not have been played off the park. His four goals against Nottingham Forest on the 6 February 1999 was one to remember, despite him coming off the bench in the 71st minute – scoring his first goal just nine minutes later. He scored another four goals against Everton on the 4 December 1999, starting that match.

One of the biggest moments of Solskjaer’s career at United was winning the UEFA Champions League during the 1998/99 season, the season that United became the first English could to win the treble – the Premier League title, the FA Cup and the Champions League. United entered in the second qualifying round that season, beating ŁKS Łódź and coming second in a group which contained Bayern Munich, Barcelona and Brøndby – coming second. United then beat Inter Milan and Juventus before meeting Bayern Munich in the final in Barcelona. United conceded in the sixth minute through Mario Basler and waited until injury time to get involved with Teddy Sheringham equalising and Solskjaer scoring the winner. Manchester United had reached the promised land. Betway selected their top ten Champions League moments, of which Solskjaer’s winner was one of them – check them out.

After Solskjaer’s career as a player was over, he managed United’s reserves, winning the Lancashire Senior Cup in the 2007/08 season, the Manchester Senior Cup in the 2008/09 season and both the Premier Reserve League North and the Premier Reserve League in the 2009/10 season. He also spent a lot of time under the guidance of Sir Alex Ferguson at that time, and prior – when he was recovering from knee surgery. This will have seen him learn the ropes, so to speak, which would guide him later in his career. Solskjaer soon returned to Molde, where he managed the club he left United for. He won the Tippeligaen in 2011 and 2012 – winning the first two top flight league titles for the club – they have since doubled that.

In January 2014, Solskjaer left Molde for Cardiff City, his first management job in England. It was not the best and it is something that many judge him for today. Cardiff were eventually relegated from the Premier League that season but Solskjaer departed a month into the clubs first season in the Championship, after a bad start to the season. He returned to Molde where he stayed until be replaced Jose Mourinho as United’s interim manager in December 2018. Many still don’t back the Norwegian and rate him as the guy that scored a tap in at the Champions League final in 1999, completely eradicating what he had achieved as a player both before and after that. But these people did not experience him as a player, so why would they remember him?

Solskjaer’s side played some good football during the 2018/19 season, beating Paris Saint-Germain in the Champions League but falling foul to Barcelona. They finished sixth in the Premier League. The following season, 2019/20 would see another challenge, the coronavirus pandemic but United ended up finishing third in the Premier League, also reaching the Carabao Cup semi-final, the FA Cup semi-final and the UEFA Europa League semi-final. It was an improvement but there was still more to do for United and Solskjaer. During the 2020/21 season, United finished second in the Premier League, reaching the Carabao Cup semi-final and the FA Cup quarter final, reaching the Europa League final on a special day – the 26 May – the day Solskjaer scored that goal in Barcelona to win the Champions League.

Written by John Walker

Predicted XI: [4-2-3-1] Cavani, Greenwood, Fernandes and Pogba to inspire United to victory over Villarreal in Gdansk?

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.

How United have faired against Villarreal in European competition.

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.

Here is my predicted starting XI to face Villarreal in the UEFA Europa League final at the Stadion Energa Gdańsk on Wednesday evening…

Goalkeeper: David De Gea

David De Gea is the likely starter against Villarreal on Wednesday evening as the two teams contest the UEFA Europa League for the 2020/21 season. The Spanish number one has played in both the quarter-final and semi-final against Granada and AS Roma with Dean Henderson playing the majority of the matches prior to those. Henderson played in the final Premier League match of the season on Sunday, leaving De Gea fresh for this match, despite the fact that Solskjaer has not been keen on giving anything away regarding his XI until he is obliged to. De Gea has been back in good form recently which could give him the edge over Henderson, who is the future of the club with De Gea’s time seemingly coming to an end. That has not been confirmed by the player, the manager or the club, so is just rumour at this time, but it will have to happen at some point.

Defenders: Aaron Wan-Bissaka, Victor Lindelof, Axel Tuanzebe, Luke Shaw

United’s defence has been both a problem and a saviour at times this season but there is no bigger problem than whether Harry Maguire will play on Wednesday evening. He’s walking without a protective boot or crutches but running is a bigger step. Unless Solskjaer is playing mind games, it would suggest that he will be out for this match, or on the bench if he’s fit enough for that. In which case, Axel Tuanzebe, who performed excellently on Sunday could step in for him. He would be partnered with Victor Lindelof, although he played well with Eric Bailly on Sunday too. In the fullback positions, Aaron Wan-Bissaka and Luke Shaw will play this match, both rested from Sunday’s match, having just over a week to prepare for this match. This is the biggest game for United this season and carries the reward of the first trophy of Solskjaer’s era at the club.

Midfield: Donny van de Beek, Scott McTominay

The midfield is where the problems lie for United. Watching Nemanja Matic against Wolverhampton Wanderers on Sunday saw him do the job of both Scott McTominay and Fred by himself, which is obviously what Solskjaer would like, and be able to play a more attack minded partner to link up the defence with the attack and move forward to create themselves also. Donny van de Beek played a good game on Sunday and I think he has done enough, at least for me, so put him into contention to start in Gdańsk. McTominay could partner him and he could take the role of the defensive player, as long as he’s up for the challenge, as there will be a challenge for him in this match. Fred has been dire this season and it’s hard to see him fitting into this squad for much longer. The easiest tasks seem impossible for him at times.

Attacking Midfield: Mason Greenwood, Bruno Fernandes, Paul Pogba

Bruno Fernandes has 28 goals and 18 assists to his name in all competitions this season, which is a great return for a midfielder and something that United have been lacking in for years now. What he offers this club is magnificent and everyone will be thankful for him being at the club. Talks of a new contract are just deserved for the Portuguese magnifico. Mason Greenwood has been playing in different roles this season by has 12 goals and six assists in all competitions, which is also a great return from the teenager. Playing on the right-wing is more for him, not Marcus Rashford, whose form has suffered in recent weeks. Paul Pogba has been playing on the left-wing recently but his contribution has waned in this area but there is no reason why it might now work on Wednesday. He has offered six goals and seven assists in all competitions this season.

Forwards: Edinson Cavani

Edinson Cavani is the striker in form at this stage of the season, which is great to see. He has 16 goals and five assists to his name and he will be seeking to add to that against Villarreal to ensure that United head home from Gdańsk with a trophy – Solskjaer’s first of him time managing United. Cavani knows how to get himself into good positions and also create space for other players to get into those positions and score. He also has a very lethal header, which has been shown at stages this season, especially over the past six weeks or so. The Uruguayan has signed a one-year extension at United, which is a good sign for the club and as his season was late to develop, having not played for PSG for a while before he left, the COVID period of isolation then injury and fatigue, next season will be big for him, especially having a full pre-season under his belt.

Substitutes: Lee Grant, Dean Henderson, Nathan Bishop; Eric Bailly, Harry Maguire, Brandon Williams, Alex Telles; Juan Mata, Fred, Amad Diallo, Daniel James, Nemanja Matic, Shola Shoretire; Marcus Rashford, Anthony Elanga

Solskjaer named a 26-man squad for this match which includes four goalkeepers, which will probably see one or two removed from the match day squad. Harry Maguire was also included, giving him every chance to be fit for the match, which looks unlikely at this time. I have named a 15-man bench but three will probably not make it. Lee Grant, Dean Henderson and Nathan Bishop are the goalkeepers that could feature on the bench. In defence, Eric Bailly, Maguire if he does not start or has enough for a cameo in the game, Brandon Williams, and Alex Telles could be called upon. In midfield, Juan Mata, Fred, Amad Diallo, Daniel James, Nemanja Matic and Shola Shoretire could be available. Marcus Rashford and Anthony Elanga will be the attackers on the bench. Five substitutions can be used in the final in three instances during the match, plus the half time break.

Written by John Walker

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

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

Ratings: De Gea and Cavani were the light in Rome. United lost the match 3-2 but won 8-5 on aggregate; Gdansk here we come

Manchester United were beaten 3-2 by AS Roma at the Stadio Olimpico on Thursday evening, but won the semi-final 8-5 on aggregate to reach the final of the UEFA Europa League where they will face Spanish side Villarreal in Gdansk on Wednesday 26 May 2021. Edinson Cavani opened the scoring in the 39th minute of the match with United leading at the break. In three minutes in the second half Edin Džeko and Bryan Cristante put Roma in the lead. Cavani then levelled in the 68th minute for United. The draw was not enough for Roma with Nicola Zalewski scoring the winner seven minutes from time.

United started out well against Roma but the Italian side soon got themselves into the match and threatened United with David De Gea performing a great save to deny them from their first goal of the match. United got forward a few times with Bruno Fernandes and Edinson Cavani both playing well but the Uruguayan, who had a good shot on goal, missed the target, which was a shame. In the 18th minute of the match, Aaron Wan-Bissaka was booked for a challenge, meaning he will need to keep his head this evening. Roma had a few more chances on goal but De Gea held firm. Chris Smalling had to go off injured in the 30th minute.

United opened the scoring in the match in the 39th minute through none other than Edinson Cavani, who scored his 13th goal of the season. A wonderful flick from Bruno Fernandes ended up with the ball being played into Fred. The Brazilian then found the feet of Cavani who took a touch of the ball before sending it into the neck of the net with his right foot. Antonio Mirante was only able to watch the ball hit the back of his net. Roma were in a precarious position with a five-goal deficit with this goal but United will not be happy with just one goal. They should ideally be seeking to score another, nullifying Roma’s away goals from last week.

United had a few more chances to double their lead before the end of the first half, which had three minutes added on. Solskjaer will take his team into the dressing room and it will probably be less fierce in there than it was at Old Trafford last week with United 2-1 down at the end of the first half. Fernandes was a player that was involved a lot in the build up of chances, also being at the end of others. He had a great chance to get a goal in the first half but tried something spectacular and it did not work for him – ending up in a heap in the penalty box. But it was not the end of the world for him. He will get more chances in this match.

Solskjaer made a double substitution during the break with saw Luke Shaw and Wan-Bissaka replaced by Alex Telles and Brandon Williams. It may not have been the best thought out change as Roma seemed to be getting the better of both fullbacks as they equalised through Edin Džeko on the 57th minute then took the lead through Lorenzo Pellegrini three minutes later. If it was not for De Gea making some great saves, Džeko could have scored a hat-trick with Roma back in the hunt of making the final of the UEFA Europa League this season. As it stands though, United were still 7-4 up on aggregate and needing a few goals themselves.

In the 68th minute of the match, United drew level on the evening through Cavani, scoring his 14th goal of the season, assisted by Fernandes, with his 17th assist of the season. Despite a shocking period of the match where United conceded two goals in three minutes, United seemed to weather the storm and score a second goal themselves, which is all they needed to do, eradicating Roma’s away goals from last week. Cavani was seemingly on a hat-trick but he was replaced by Marcus Rashford in the 74th minute of the match with United watching themselves and possibly utilising Rashford to keep them in with a chance of scoring goals.

United conceded a third goal in the 83rd minute of the match through debutant Nicola Zalewski, who was assisted by Davide Santon. It was the goal that put Roma 3-2 up on the night but still 8-5 down on aggregate. 13 goals had been scored in the semi-final clash over the two legs, which shows the ability of both teams. United needed to watch themselves though as De Gea was becoming the Man of the Match, despite the goals scored as he had saved so many more. Solskjaer made his fifth substitution in the 84th minute of the match with Juan Mata replacing Fernandes, who perhaps could have been rested a lot earlier in the match.

The match seemed to drop off a little as Roma saw the clock run down, along with the fact they still need three more goals from this match. Brandon Williams was booked in the second minute of added time, United’s fourth booking of the match. It was a shame United lost this match but winning 8-5 on aggregate is not something to be laughed at as the work was done in the first leg of the match. United will face Villarreal in the final of the UEFA Europa League in Gdansk, Poland as Arsenal could not score a single goal at home to add to the goal they scored in their 2-1 defeat in the first leg. No European football for Arsenal, unless there is a miracle.

United will now get themselves ready for the Premier League clash with Aston Villa at Villa Park on Sunday, which is going to be a must-win match for Solskjaer’s side with them needing to secure a second-placed finish in the league this season. United then face Leicester City at Old Trafford two days later, then Liverpool at the Theatre of Dreams two days after that – a rescheduled match from last Sunday after the match was postponed. United will then have four days rest before facing Fulham at Old Trafford on the 18th May with five days before their final league match of the season away to Wolverhampton Wanderers.

Manchester United

1 David De Gea

The Spanish number one made many great saves to deny Roma in the first half of the match. He conceded twice in three minutes, which made United change the game with Cavani getting an equaliser. Conceded a third in the 83rd minute which saw United lose on the night but advance 8-5 on aggregate.

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29 Aaron Wan-Bissaka

The right back was booked in the 18th minute for a challenge. He did what he needed to do in defence but was replaced by Williams during the half time break.

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3 Eric Bailly

He was not good enough this evening. He has a lot of work to challenge to become the partner of Maguire. Conceded many fouls and did not do well against Džeko.

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5 Harry Maguire

Made a few good clearances when Roma pressured United. I think Lindelof will play next to him in the final. That partnership is more assured at this time.

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23 Luke Shaw

Did well in the first half as United got forward a lot of the time but also saw many Roma chances, getting caught out a few times. Was replaced by Telles at the break.

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34 Donny van de Beek

Made a rare start. Pushed out to the left as he did not do well in midfield. Created something for Fernandes but that was all. Needs more time on the pitch to gain momentum.

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17 Fred

Got an assist for Cavani's opener. Seemed t revert back to the Fred we normally see after that. Booked too, which was not great for United.

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11 Mason Greenwood

Got two chances on goal either side of the break. The experience from tonight will go a long way for him. I feel he should have at least scored one goal this evening. It was his 100th appearance and there will be many more ahead for him.

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18 Bruno Fernandes

Did well with Cavani and got another assist to his name as Cavani scored his second of the evening. Did well as an attacking player. Was replaced by Mata in the 84th minute.

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6 Paul Pogba

The Frenchman played well in the first half, helping United to get forward. He was targeted a little by the Roma players. With two goals conceded on the evening and United needing to strengthen the midfield, at least defensively, Pogba was replaced by Matic, which happened in the 64th minute of the match.

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21 Edinson Cavani

The Uruguayan is in some great form at this stage of the season, which is great to see. He opened the scoring for United, firing his first goal in the 39th minute of the match. In the 57th and 60th minutes of the match, United conceded two goals. The Uruguayan put United level in the 68th minute of the match, scoring his 14th goal of the season but he was substitutes minutes later after being booked for an argument. It would have been a great evening for him to score a hat-trick.

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Substitutes

27 Alex Telles

Replaced Shaw 46'. Did not do as well as Shaw, in fact, United were much weaker in defence with him on the pitch.

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33 Brandon Williams

Replaced Wan-Bissaka 46'. Saw a lot go action as Roma attacked on his side and scored twice. Had a shot of his own but it was a forgettable night for him.

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31 Nemanja Matic

Replaced Pogba 64'. Came on to shore up the midfield with United under the cosh. Did what he needed to do, despite United losing on the night.

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10 Marcus Rashford

Replaced Cavani 73'. Gave United some attacking spark but other than this being a run out for him, there was not much point him playing.

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8 Juan Mata

Replaced Fernandes 84'. Came on for a cameo. Did not really have enough time on the pitch to get stuck into the match.

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Goals: Edin Džeko 57′, Bryan Cristante 60′, Nicola Zalewski 83′; Edinson Cavani 39′, 68′

Assists: Pedro 57′, Lorenzo Pellegrini 60′, Davide Santon 83′; Fred 39′, Bruno Fernandes 68′

Manchester United: De Gea; Wan-Bissaka (Williams 46′), Bailly, Maguire, Shaw (Telles 46′); Van de Beek, Fred; Greenwood, Fernandes (Mata 84′), Pogba (Matic 64′); Cavani (Rashford 73′)

Substitutes Not Used: Grant, Henderson; Lindelof, Tuanzebe; Diallo, McTominay; Elanga

Bookings: Rick Karsdorp 72′, Bryan Cristante 84′; Aaron Wan-Bissaka 18′, Fred 58′, Edinson Cavani 72′, Brandon Williams 90+2′

Written by John Walker

Confirmed XI: Van de Beek, Fernandes and Cavani start against Roma; Rashford and Elanga on the bench

Manchester United face AS Roma at the Stadio Olimpico in the UEFA Europa League semi-final second leg this evening. Last week at Old Trafford, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s side came from 2-1 down to win 6-2 after a sublime second half which saw Bruno Fernandes complete his brace, Edinson Cavani score a brace, Paul Pogba with a great header and Mason Greenwood continue his rise to stardom. Roma were pushed aside and will need something short of a miracle to overturn this four-goal deficit and that is even before you think about whether United score or not. Paulo Fonseca’s side’s season looks to be over.

United will have had another week’s break by the time they play again after their Premier League clash with Liverpool was postponed on Sunday after the protest against the Glazer’s at both Old Trafford, which involved supporters getting into the stadium, and at the Lowry Hotel, where the players were ahead of the match. The match was initially delayed but then postponed on safety grounds with a new date for the match not yet confirmed. United will have five Premier League matches to fit into the next 20 days as the match will need to be played before the last matches in the league are played on the 23 May 2021.

Manchester United:

De Gea;

Wan-Bissaka, Bailly, Maguire, Shaw;

Van de Beek, Fred;

Greenwood, Fernandes, Pogba;

Cavani

Substitutes:

Grant, Henderson; Lindelof, Telles, Williams, Tuanzebe; Mata, Diallo, Matic, McTominnay; Rashford, Elanga

AS Roma:

Mirante;

Karsdorp, Smalling, Ibanez, Peres;

Cristante, Mancini;

Pedro, Pellegrini, Mkhitaryan;

Dzeko

Substitutes:

Boer, Fuzato, Santon, Mayoral, Kumbulla, Bove, Ciervo, Darboe, Zalewski

United and Roma have met seven times in the history of the UEFA Champions League, playing six times and the UEFA Europa League, playing once. United have won five times, drawing once and losing once. The Red Devils have scored a total of 19 goals, conceding six 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.

Before last week, United last 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 scoring once.

Written by John Walker

Predicted XI: [4-1-2-1-2] Solskjaer to rest a number of players? In-form Cavani and Greenwood to lead the line against Roma?

Manchester United face AS Roma at the Stadio Olimpico in the UEFA Europa League semi-final second leg on Thursday evening. Last week at Old Trafford, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s side came from 2-1 down to win 6-2 after a sublime second half which saw Bruno Fernandes complete his brace, Edinson Cavani score a brace, Paul Pogba with a great header and Mason Greenwood continue his rise to stardom. Roma were pushed aside and will need something short of a miracle to overturn this four-goal deficit and that is even before you think about whether United score or not. Paulo Fonseca’s side’s season looks to be over.

United will have had another week’s break by the time they play again after their Premier League clash with Liverpool was postponed on Sunday after the protest against the Glazer’s at both Old Trafford, which involved supporters getting into the stadium, and at the Lowry Hotel, where the players were ahead of the match. The match was initially delayed but then postponed on safety grounds with a new date for the match not yet confirmed. United will have five Premier League matches to fit into the next 20 days as the match will need to be played before the last matches in the league are played on the 23 May 2021.

How United have faired against AS Roma in European competition.

United and Roma have met seven times in the history of the UEFA Champions League, playing six times and the UEFA Europa League, playing once. United have won five times, drawing once and losing once. The Red Devils have scored a total of 19 goals, conceding six 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.

Before last week, United last 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 scoring once.

Here is my predicted starting XI to face AS Roma in the UEFA Europa League at the Stadio Olimpico on Thursday evening…

Goalkeeper: David De Gea

David De Gea is expected to keep his place in the team in the UEFA Europa League semi-final second leg at the Stadio Olimpico against AS Roma on Thursday evening. He will nneed to be at his best though as he conceded twice in the opening 34 minutes last week. Thwarting Edin Dzeko will be the big task though and the striker still has his ability to score goals, which is a big danger for the Italian side. De Gea could well leave United this summer after the birth of his daughter in the past few months and the fact that the club are ready to move on with Dean Henderson as the number one goalkeeper.

It would be good to see the Spanish goalkeeper leave the club after winning a trophy, which will be another big achievement for him despite the years of nothing before the club won the Emirates FA Cup under Louis Van Gaal and the EFL Cup and the Europa League under Jose Mourinho, who will become the Roma manager this summer after being sacked by Tottenham Hotspur in the past month. De Gea has won seven honours at United with three of them being the FA Community Shield, which is not a major trophy in my opinion. He has one Premier League title, one FA Cup, one EFL Cup and one UEFA Europa League to his name.

Defenders: Aaron Wan-Bissaka, Eric Bailly, Harry Maguire, Luke Shaw

United’s defence need to have a good match against Roma, not capitulate like they did in the opening 34 minutes of the match last week. Solskjaer may want to make changes but there is only one I would make going into this match, then if they get the needed result, preferably two goals scored – nullifying the away goals Roma scored last week, more changes can be made. Aaron Wan-Bissaka and Luke Shaw should occupy the fullback places as they are the best in their position at this time. Shaw can have a say in the attacking on the left, which he has done all season with Wan-Bissaka concentrating on his defensive duties on the right.

Harry Maguire will start this match, commanding his backline and doing his best to ensure United make the final of the UEFA Europa League this season. I would allow Victor Lindelof to be rested, bringing in Eric Bailly for this match, giving him the chance to show what he can do and help to earn his place in the team back. His injury record, although with him being at the club for a shorter period of time, is comparable to that of Phil Jones, which is a shame. I though Bailly was the best defender at the club a few years back. He could still prove he is one of the best as long as he plays well and keeps his fitness, which is his major problem.

Midfield: Scott McTominay, Nemanja Matic, Paul Pogba

United should ensure they field the midfield that is capable of the task ahead – securing United’s place in the UEFA Europa League final this season. United are in a good position to qualify for the UEFA Champions League based on their league position as they sit in second place six points clear of fourth with a game in hand over the two teams below them. That will only be confirmed when it is mathematically impossible for other teams to knock United out of the top four. Paul Pogba should start as his form over the last month has been positive and he has been capable of doing the business and helping to get the job done.

Nemanja Matic probably deserves a start in this match, of which United have the chance of resting some of the first-choice players, keeping them fresh for the remainder of the season with five Premier League matches left to play, this match and quote possibly the final of this competition. Matic can offer something to the midfield, despite his pace not being as good as it once was. Scott Mctominay should also start as he can help in the defensive duties but also get forward and cause some problems of his own in the final third of the pitch. United already have their foot in the door, now they need to get through it and shut it to ensure they get to Gdansk.

Attacking Midfield: Donny van de Beek

Donny van de Beek should start in the advanced position usually occupied by Bruno Fernandes against Roma. He is a capable player and needs to have some time on the pitch to show what he can do. The Dutchman has one goal and two assists to his name this season but has only played 32 times for the club, opening just 1,181 minutes on the pitch, which averages at just under 37 minutes per appearance. The 24-year-old is clearly part pf the bigger picture at United and is happy at the club, as stated by his compatriot and Manchester United Women player Jackie Groenen. I am sure Solskjaer has something in mind for the player.

He should start against Roma, which will give Fernandes a break ahead of the clash with Aston Villa in the Premier League on Sunday. Van de Beek has the ability to break into the box, without or without the ball and create something. That has not been well demonstrated at United, but it is something the player has done time and time again for both Ajax and the Netherlands. United’s midfield is packed at this moment in time which has led to the Dutchman being on the bench more often that starting matches. Hopefully he gets to play a meaningful match and gets to show his manager and teammates just what he can do on the pitch.

Forwards: Mason Greenwood, Edinson Cavani

Edinson Cavani was named the Player of the Month for April for the goals he scored during the month, which puts him in great form at the right time – the business end of the season. He was going to be rested against Liverpool on Sunday, if the match was played, which would have left him fresh for this match, which is still the position he and United are in. United will need him one Sunday, so the goal should be United getting two early goals, which would seal the victory for United, unless Roma were able to score seven goals on the evening, which would seem unlikely. Cavani is the best striker at the club and the hop is that he will remain at United.

Mason Greenwood should play alongside the Uruguayan against Roma as he has been in form at this stage of the season, taking his goalscoring tally to ten goals last week. Greenwood can learn a lot from Cavani and he has been doing that this season. United have one foot in the final of the UEFA Europa League and have seemingly ended their semi-final hoodoo at a good time. Winning a trophy this season will be a must and at this stage, unless Arsenal turn up against Villarreal, it could be the Spanish team in the final. Either would be fine though. Imagine beating Arsenal in Gdansk and ending their dreams of European football next season.

Substitutes: Lee Grant, Dean Henderson; Victor Lindelof, Alex Telles, Brandon Williams, Axel Tuanzebe; Juan Mata, Fred, Bruno Fernandes, Amad Diallo, Daniel James; Marcus Rashford

United can name 12 players on the bench for the Europa League which gives more options, not that United need those after winning the first leg 6-2. Solskjaer will probably have both Lee Grant and Dean Henderson on the bench in this match. It is expected that David De Gea will keep his place in this competition with Henderson seemingly now playing in the Premier League matches. In defence, United could have Victor Lindelof, Alex Telles, Brandon Williams and Axel Tuanzebe available, should they need the reinforcement inn the second leg. It is possible that Solskjaer chooses to rest some of the players that I think will play in this match.

In midfield, Juan Mata, Fred, Bruno Fernandes, Amad Diallo and Daniel James could all be available with no new injuries reported after last week’s match at the Theatre of Dreams. United should go out to score at least two away goals in this match, nullifying Roma’s away goals scored last week, which, providing United do not concede any goals before scoring, would put them six goals to the good which would seemingly see them into the final. In attack, with United short on this front with Anthony Martial on the sidelines through injury, Marcus Rashford could be the only experienced attacking player on the bench for this match. He was due to start against Liverpool one Sunday before the match was postponed.

Written by John Walker

Preview: United rested ahead of Roma semi-final second leg; 90 minutes from the final

AS Roma -v- Manchester United

UEFA Europa League

Stadio Olimpico, Rome

Thursday 6 May 2021, KO 20:00 BST

Referee: Felix Brych Assistants: Mark Borsch, Stefan Lupp

Fourth Official: Felix Zwayer

VAR: Marco Fritz Assistant VAR: Sascha Stegemann

Manchester United face AS Roma at the Stadio Olimpico in the UEFA Europa League semi-final second leg on Thursday evening. Last week at Old Trafford, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s side came from 2-1 down to win 6-2 after a sublime second half which saw Bruno Fernandes complete his brace, Edinson Cavani score a brace, Paul Pogba with a great header and Mason Greenwood continue his rise to stardom. Roma were pushed aside and will need something short of a miracle to overturn this four-goal deficit and that is even before you think about whether United score or not. Paulo Fonseca’s side’s season looks to be over.

United will have had another week’s break by the time they play again after their Premier League clash with Liverpool was postponed on Sunday after the protest against the Glazer’s at both Old Trafford, which involved supporters getting into the stadium, and at the Lowry Hotel, where the players were ahead of the match. The match was initially delayed but then postponed on safety grounds with a new date for the match not yet confirmed. United will have five Premier League matches to fit into the next 20 days as the match will need to be played before the last matches in the league are played on the 23 May 2021.

Manchester United: WDWWWW

AS Roma 6-2 W, Leeds United 0-0 D, Burnley 3-1 W, Granada 2-0 W, Tottenham Hotspur 3-1 W, Granada CF 2-0 W

AS Roma: LLLDLD

UC Sampdoria 2-0 L, Manchester United 6-2 L, Cagliari Calcio 3-2 L, Atalanta BC 1-1 D, Torino FC 3-1 L, AFC Ajax 1-1 D

Top Scorers: Four United players are responsible for scoring 68 goals so far this season with United scoring more than a 100 so far. Roma need a miracle to stop this team from scoring goals.

Manchester United Goals: 26 – Bruno Fernandes, 20 – Marcus Rashford, 12 – Edinson Cavani, 10 – Mason Greenwood, 7 – Anthony Martial, Scott McTominay, 6 – Paul Pogba, 5 – Own Goal, Daniel James, 2 – Harry Maguire, Juan Mata, Aaron Wan-Bissaka, 1 – Amad Diallo, Fred, Victor Lindelof, Luke Shaw, Donny van de Beek

In their last six matches, United have won five and drawn once, scoring 16 goals, conceding four and keeping three clean sheets. Obviously, this could have changed if the Liverpool match had gone ahead on Sunday, but it didn’t. United have a foot in the door to the final of the Europa League this season and will need to go out at the Stadio Olimpico with a view of scoring two goals, giving them a six-goal lead and eradicating those two goals scored against them at the Theatre of Dreams last week. Solskjaer will have the chance to rest some of his key players in this match with the clash with Aston Villa also one the horizon.

AS Roma Goals: 15 – Borja Mayoral, 12 – Edin Dzeko, Jordan Veretout, 10 – Henrikh Mkhitaryan, 8 – 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

Roma have not won a single match in their last six, drawing twice and losing four times. In the last six matches, they have scored seven goals, conceded 16 and kept no clean sheets. The club sit seventh in the Serie A this season and look set to miss out on the major European competitions, seemingly able to qualify for the play-off round of the UEFA Europa Conference League instead. Paulo Fonseca will leave the club at the end of the season with Portuguese manager Jose Mourinho taking over from him. The Special One has become the sacked one too many times recently and will need to show that he is capable of leading a team to glory.

Team News: United will be missing two players though injury but Sunday’s postponed match will have given them a brief period of rest ahead of this important match.

Phil Jones (knee) and Anthony Martial (knee) are the only two players to be out of action through injury for this match. With United’s match not going ahead on Sunday, Solskjaer’s side will be refreshed after their 6-2 victory at Old Trafford last Thursday. Solskjaer will have the benefit of being able to rest a few players for this match given the scoreline and United will need to effectively confirm their place in the UEFA Europa League final by scoring two away goals, therefore cancelling out Roma’s effort at the Theatre of Dreams last week. This could put United six goals ahead with Roma needing something of a miracle to head Gdansk on the 26 May.

Nicolò Zaniolo (cruciate ligament), Riccardo Calafiori (bicep), Jordan Veretout (bicep), Leonardo Spinazzola (bicep), Pau López (shoulder), Stephan El Shaarawy (unknown), Amadou Diawara (pubalgia) and Carles Pérez (muscular) all have problems ahead of the second leg of the semi-final against United. Roma will need something short of a miracle to overcome this deficit and reach the final in Gdansk on the 26 May. Gianluca Mancini was suspended for the clash at Old Trafford and he could be involved at the Stadio Olimpico on Thursday evening. Paulo Fonseca will need to have a plan and United will be out to ruin it once again.

Predicted Starting XI: Edinson Cavani and Mason Greenwood to spearhead United’s attack against Roma? Donny van de Beek, Paul Pogba, Scott McTominay and Nemanja Matic to start?

Solskjaer already knows that be can rest some important players for this match, which at this stage of the season will be well received. United did not end up playing this weekend but the match will be factored in before the final weekend of Premier League matches, so resting players now will be something much-needed with five Premier League matches still to play, plus this one and the final if United did end up confirming their place. Edinson Cavani should start alongside Mason Greenwood as United should seek to score two away goals, therefore nullifying Roma’s chances of playing in the final in Gdansk this season.

Match Prediction: United have beaten Roma five times in European competition and are no stranger to humiliating them. United are just 90 minutes away from a UEFA Europa League final.

United and Roma have met seven times in the history of the UEFA Champions League, playing six times and the UEFA Europa League, playing once. United have won five times, drawing once and losing once. The Red Devils have scored a total of 19 goals, conceding six 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.

Before last week, United last 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 scoring once.

AS Roma 2-3 Manchester United

Written by John Walker

Ratings: Fall of Roma – Fernandes, Cavani, Pogba and Greenwood punish Roma to seemingly end semi-final hoodoo

Manchester United beat AS Roma 6-2 in the UEFA Europa League semi-final first leg at Old Trafford. Bruno Fernandes opened the scoring in the ninth minute but a penalty by Lorenzo Pellegrini saw United’s lead cut short. Edin Džeko then put Roma ahead 34th minute of the match. The second half was where United showed up with Edinson Cavani scoring a brace, Fernandes scoring a penalty, Paul Pogba getting a good goal and Mason Greenwood finishing the scoring to give United a four-goal lead going into the second leg at the Stadio Olimpico next Thursday. United have a foot in the door to the final.

United started well against the Italian side and were seeking to take control of the fixture. Roma lost Jordan Veretout in the fifth minute of the match after what seemed like a hamstring injury – he was replaced by Gonzalo Villar. Four minutes later, United opened the scoring with Bruno Fernandes scoring his 25th goal of the season, assisted by Edinson Cavani. It all started to go wrong for United there though. A penalty was given in the 14th minute after Paul Pogba, who was doing his defensive duties, sliding the make the clearance with an arm in the air and the ball striking it. Lorenzo Pellegrini scored from the spot in the 15th minute.

In the 28th minute ion the match, Roma lost their goalkeeper Pau López after seemingly injuring his shoulder with veteran Antonio Mirante replacing him. Just six minutes later, Roma had taken the lead for the first time in the match with Edin Džeko scoring from close-range after a defensive mistake saw Pellegrini play the ball into the forward and him finding the back of the net. It was a poor period for United, who needed to be a but more defensively astute, especially against Džeko, who has form scoring against United. Roma lost a third player through unjust in the 37th minute after Leonardo Spinazzola was replaced by Bruno Peres.

United had a few opportunities to get level again, but it was not happening for them. The advantage would be theirs in the second half though as if Roma did not make a double substitution, they would not be able to bring on any other players as the five substitutions need to be made one three occasions inn the match, and they have brought three substitutes one already in three different points of the match. If they did not make any changes during the break, that would be it for them for the remainder of the match. United still have five substitutions to make, which gives them an advantage, as long as they can do something to win the match.

Neither side made a change during the break, which means that Roma will not be able to make any for the remainder of the match, despite having two remaining. United should have made a substitution to change the flow of attack, but they will probably be left for later in the match, which time is against them. United got level in the game with Cavani scoring his 11th goal of the season, equalising in the 48th minute of the match with Fernandes getting the assist. United looked a bit more assured starting the second half, which is what was needed to take charge of this match. Clearly something was said at half time by Solskjaer.

United got a third goal of the evening with Cavani finding the back of the net for the second time this evening, adding his tally to 12 goals so far this season and it puts United in command of this fixture. The United side that turned up in the second half had started to become ruthless. After some chances on goal, United won a penalty after Chris Smalling seemed to foul Cavani in the box and Fernandes scored his second of the match and 26th of the season putting United 4-2 up. Just four minutes later, Paul Pogba, who gave away a penalty in the first half, found the back of the net to score United’s fifth goal of the match.

United pulled this victory out of the bag and punished Roma in the second half. Mason Greenwood replaced Marcus Rashford in the 73rd minute of the match, two minutes before Pogba’s goal, which put United 5-2 up. Solskjaer made another change in the 83rd minute with Nemanja Matic replacing Fred. Three minutes later, Greenwood scored United’s sixth goal of the match, surely putting the club into the final and ending their semi-final hoodoo. Solskjaer then made a third change in the last minute of the match with Juan Mata replacing Fernandes. United would travel to Rome to face Roma in the second leg with a big cushion.

United would surely need two away goals in Rome to ensure their place in the final, which could be against Villarreal or Arsenal, with that match ending 2-1 to the Spanish side in Spain. United’s goals in the second half caught Roma out, seemingly the fall or Roma and they will be thinking about that visit to the Theatre of Dreams back in April 2007 with a resurgent United winning 7-1 after a 2-1 defeat in Rome six days prior. Whatever Solskjaer said in the dressing room at half time, it worked and this United side smashed their oppositions spirit, punishing them time and time again in the second half to grab the victory.

United face Liverpool at Old Trafford in the Premier League on Sunday afternoon, which is another big encounter with United seeking to cement their second-placed finish in the league this season. Leicester City and Chelsea are both also seeking to better their league positions this season, with Leicester the closest to United – but the pair still have to play next month, which could be the decider in who takes second this season. United have turned a corner and it will be interesting to see who is still moaning after that match, which was good from start to finish. Never write United off. They can do anything at any time.

Manchester United

1 David De Gea

Failed to make the save from a penalty again, which is a 50/50 to be fair. Conceded what seemed like a lucky goal from Dzeko, after a miss-kick. He had little to do other than that with United in the driving seat in the second half.

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29 Aaron Wan-Bissaka

Mkhitaryan seemed to work him in the creation of Roma's second goal. Still, he was largely untroubled in the second half with United doing everything they needed to do.

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2 Victor Lindelof

Did well against Dzeko at times but was drawn out for his to score the second goal for Roma. Assured in the second half with United on top.

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5 Harry Maguire

Made a mistake for Pellegrini's cross into Dzeko. But equally, he put in a good spell to deny Dzeko when the score was level at 2-2. United were in charge at 3-2 up but carried on scoring.

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23 Luke Shaw

He was key to United attacking in the left but Dzeko was causing him some problems. What a season Shaw is having. He seems to be full of confidence, which is great to see.

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39 Scott McTominay

It was not the best performance in either half for the Scotland international. Solskjaer stuck with the players he started with in midfield.

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17 Fred

Failed to keep the ball which led to Roma's penalty. He was again caught out when Mkhitaryan broke through United's defence ahead of Dzeko's goal. He was replaced by Matic in the 83rd minute of the match.

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10 Marcus Rashford

Had some intent about him and seemed to be moving around a lot better after his injury. He did not get into speed with the game though. He was replaced by Greenwood in the 76th minute of the match.

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18 Bruno Fernandes

What a performance. Opened the scoring in the ninth minute and also scored a penalty in the 71st minute. Assisted for Cavani and Pogba - two goals and two assists for the Portuguese magnifico. What a player. What a night. Replaced by Mata in the last minute of the match.

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6 Paul Pogba

Gave away a penalty in the first half, which seemed to be a harsh decision. He put in a good performance though and made right his error with a goal in the 75th minute, putting United 5-2 up on the night. Not one to be knocked down with the penalty and dominated in the second half.

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21 Edinson Cavani

Seemed to be off pace in the first half at times, but so were United after conceding two goals in the half. Made up for it with two goals and an assist in the second half to inspire United to victory.

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Substitutes

11 Mason Greenwood

Replaced Rashford 76'. Game some fresh legs in attack late in the game and scored the sixth goal, putting United in a great position ahead of the second leg next week.

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31 Nemanja Matic

Replaced Fred 83'. Helped add some defensive ability in the midfield as United protected their four-goal lead.

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8 Juan Mata

Replaced Fernandes 89'. Came on late in the match to help United play on. Not on long enough to get into the game.

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Goals: Bruno Fernandes 9′, 71′, Edinson Cavani 48′, 64′, Paul Pogba 75′, Mason Greenwood 86′; Lorenzo Pellegrini 15′ penalty, Edin Džeko 34′

Assists: Edinson Cavani 9′, 86′, Bruno Fernandes 48′, 75′; Lorenzo Pellegrini 34′

Manchester United: De Gea; Wan-Bissaka, Lindelof, Maguire, Shaw; McTominay, Fred (Matic 83′); Rashford (Greenwood 76′), Fernandes (Mata 90′), Pogba; Cavani

Substitutes Not Used: Grant, Henderson; Bailly, Telles, Williams, Tuanzebe; Diallo, James, Van de Beek

Bookings: Paul Pogba 51′; Gonzalo Villar 50′, Chris Smalling 61′

Written by John Walker

Confirmed XI: Cavani, Rashford, Fernandes and Pogba start against Roma; Diallo and Van de Beek on the bench

Manchester United return to UEFA Europa League action this 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:

De Gea;

Wan-Bissaka, Lindelof, Maguire, Shaw;

McTominay, Fred;

Rashford, Fernandes, Pogba;

Cavani

Substitutes:

Grant, Henderson; Bailly, Telles, Williams, Tuanzebe; Mata, Diallo, James, Matic, Van de Beek; Greenwood

AS Roma:

Lopez;

Smalling, Cristante, Ibanez;

Karsdorp, Diawara, Veretout, Spinazzola;

Pellegrini, Mkhitaryan;

Dzeko

Substitutes:

Mirante, Fuzato, Villar, Santon, Mayoral, Kumbulla, Perez, Peres, Ciervo, Darboe

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.

Written by John Walker

copyright: JW