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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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7 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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7 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

Predicted XI: [4-3-1-2] Cavani and Greenwood to lead the attack against Roma; Pogba, McTominay and Van de Beek in midfield to end semi-final hoodoo

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.

How United have faired against AS Roma in European competition.

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.

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

Goalkeeper: David De Gea

David De Gea played both matches against Granada in the quarter-final stage of the UEFA Europa League and with Dean Henderson seemingly the number one goalkeeper at the club at this stage of the season, it would seem that De Gea will face AS Roma this week with United prioritising the competition as it is the only one they can gain a trophy from this season. De Gea has been a great servant to the club but his future seems to be up in the air at this time, following the birth of his daughter over the past few months. Whilst there has been no confirmation of him wanting to leave the club this summer, the rumours will still be rife.

The Spanish goalkeeper could be a good fit inn this competition with United seeking to overcome their semi-final hoodoo with Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s side losing five of the semi-finals they have appeared in since he took over from Jose Mourinho. United will be eager to break that poor form in the latter stages of cup competitions, also seeking to get to their first European final since they won the competition under Mourinho during the 2016/17 season, beating Ajax in the final. I believe United could go all the way here but they do not need to get carried away, always ensuring that give their all on the pitch and De Gea can do just that.

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

United will have been boosted by their clean sheet against Leeds United on Sunday but will also be buoyed by their lack of goals against the club. Solskjaer may need to change up his defence, keeping some players fit for the clash with Liverpool at Old Trafford inn Sunday, which will be a big game and one that United should be winning with Liverpool’s poor form this season. Aaron Wan-Bissaka and Luke Shaw will keep their places in the fullback positions and I believe they could both play on Sunday too. With Brandon Williams and Alex Telles on the bench, they could be replaced should United get a few goals in the match.

In the central defensive positions, I expect Eric Bailly to make his first start since the international break, where he tested positive for coronavirus and had to stay in the Ivory Coast until he had a negative test, then travel back to Manchester where he could be assessed and also put forward negative tests to get back into the swing of things. He recently signed an extension to his contract at the club, which will cut some rumours out ahead of the summer. Partnering him will be Harry Maguire, the captain who has missed few matches the season – something that Bailly could learn from after his poor injury record at the club duo far.

Midfield: Donny van de Beek, Scott McTominay, Paul Pogba

United midfield was somewhat rested ons Sunday and for this match Paul Pogba and Donny van de Beek need to be starting. I believe the pair can add something in terms of experience and ability with the Dutchman not playing a lot of football so far this season. Pogba can inspire United to put themselves in with a chance of getting to the UEFA Europa League final on Thursday evening, ahead of the second leg of the competition that will be played inn Rome next week. Van de Beek is a player that can frustrate Roma and also assist the attack to find space, create goals and even score them himself, although he has one goal to his name this season.

Scott Mctominay could be the third midfielder playing in a midfield three in this match and he will be expected to do all the defensive tasks in the match, which is something he has done at times for the club. When United are on the ball and going forward, he can also get himself in good positions, as has been shown with his seven goals in all competitions so far this season. Bruno Fernandes will be playing in the advanced role in midfield and he will be needed at his best. I believe this trio, playing behind the attackers can assist the defence and play the ball forward for the attacking players, although this will be a tough match.

Attacking Midfield: Bruno Fernandes

Bruno Fernandes is the player that has performed the most for United, but in the past few matches, he seems to have been struggling at times. He was effectively nullified by Kelvin Phillips against Leeds United, which would have been frustrating for him. He will need to find ways of overcoming that moving forward as United rely one him to either score goal of create them, whether with the assist or the ball that creates the assist. Fernandes has scored 24 goals in all competitions so far this season, adding 14 assists to that tally and he is the player that has scored the most goals for the club since he arrived in January 2020.

Against Roma, he will need to be dangerous going forward and his teammates will need to assist him when getting forward, especially if Roma end up marking him, which will mean that United stagnate as there are not many players on the pitch that can add good play like the Portuguese magnifico does. Perhaps Donny van de Beek could add something, which might mean that Roma could find it tough against this United side – as long as both he and Fernandes start, which will probably not be the case. Solskjaer will need to commit himself when making changes, as he does this too late at times, which seems to cost United more each time.

Forwards: Mason Greenwood, Edinson Cavani

Edinson Cavani did not start against Leeds United on Sunday and I felt that this was a big mistake. But Solskjaer could have been prioritising him for this match, which has a higher level of importance. The Uruguayan may not be staying at the club for a second season, unless that changes before the end of the season and despite him scoring his tenth goal some weeks ago, he could still do a lot more between now an the end of the season. I believe he is the best striker at the club at this time and with the injury to Anthony Martial, which has supposedly ended his season, United will need him more between now and the latter stages on May.

Mason Greenwood should partner Cavani in attack, playing in a forward two, which could have the impetus to do some damage to this Roma side, who have been poor domestically, but better in this competition. They stand in the way of United making the final this season and for that reason, United will need to sweep them out of the way. Greenwood has not scored as many goals as he did last season, but he has been playing in his more favoured position for much of the time, learning along the way. In a few years time, he will be some player. Until then, we have to hope that he has learned a lot and can help inspire United to a first final as a group together.

Substitutes: Dean Henderson; Victor Lindelof, Alex Telles, Brandon Williams, Axel Tuanzebe; Juan Mata, Fred, Amad Diallo, Daniel James, Nemanja Matic; Marcus Rashford, Anthony Elanga

Solskjaer can name 12 or more players on the bench for this match, depending on how many players he selected for the match day squad. He can bring five of those players onto the pitch, which might be needed with a view to Sunday’s clash with Liverpool. He might need to make changes across the pitch to save players from fatigue as they will have just two full days rest between matches. It seems likely that Dean Henderson will be one the bench, should he be needed, which seems unlikely. It could well be that some youth players are added to the bench too, with United short on attacking players at this time.

In defence, Victor Lindelof, Alex Telles, Brandon Williams and Axel Tuanzebe could all be available. They may be needed as Solskjaer seeks to keep his fullbacks fit to face Liverpool, maybe even freshen up the centre of defence during the match, if United get a few goals ahead of the Italian side. In the midfield and wide attacking areas, Solskjaer could choose from Juan Mata, Fred, Amad Diallo, Daniel James and Nemanja Matic which is a whole host of experience and pace to bring onto the pitch. In attack, Marcus Rashford could be available with Anthony Elanga also included in the squad, to give United more choice in attacking positions.

Written by John Walker

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

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

A European Super League? It’s a no from me…

“A team died in 1958 to play in Europe, and this is our history being thrown away for money, by owners who know nothing about Manchester.”Ian Sterling of Manchester United Supporters Trust (MUST)

On Sunday, rumours were rife about a supposed European Super League and there were 12 European football clubs that were willing to break away from the standard structure of European football. Six clubs in the Premier League were involved; Arsenal, Chelsea, Liverpool, Manchester City, Manchester United and Tottenham Hotspur. Three teams from La Liga in Spain; Atletico Madrid, Barcelona and Real Madrid and three teams from Serie A in Italy; AC Milan, Inter Milan and Juventus. There were also suggestions of three more clubs being involved meaning 15 clubs would start up this new league. However, the figure seems to be stuck at 12.

United beat Burnley 3-1 in the Premier League on Sunday but immediately this win was taken away because of this Super League. Former United defender and captain Gary Neville was not please on Sky Sports, showing his displeasure live during the half time break of the match involving his former club. Talk then spread at full time with another former captain and midfielder, Roy Keane airing his displeasure in the breakaway. Former City defender Micah Richards also spoke his mind about this money grab in football – as that is what it really is. The whole suggestion of it is disgusting. It rips the heart and soul out of the game.

The Glazer’s have never really been a great fit at United. They took over the club by leveraging a debt against the club and have continued to take money away from the club in dividends and share sales, giving nothing back from their own pocket. United are still in a substantial debt and this Super League that seems to be propped by by JP Morgan, will put them in more debt, seemingly selling the souls of the club to the greedy so they can take more money off the top, cutting the hard-working supporters out of the game. This is really the ugly side of football. A side that should be kicked out of the game.

Earning money is necessary in life but greedy football club owners are not needed at all.

The funny thing yesterday is that Sky seem to have found a bad taste in the plans for the Super League, climbing up their own Ivory Tower and calling the six Premier League clubs out. I mean, it is not as if Sky have profited massively from this game and they did not set to to do just that from the inception of the Premier League in its inaugural 1992/93 season! Granted, this is a different kind of greed and it will spoil the game for millions of supporters all over the world. The greed of the Glazer’s and their stooge, Ed Woodward has been seen for what it is now and it has played out live during a football match.

Manchester United supporters have a bond with the club. They have supported it for many years, sometimes most of their lives. They have learned the history of the club, the traditions, the success, the failure and the tragedy. This is the embodiment of a supporter of this club. The majority know the trajectory of the club through the years. The blood, sweat and tears put into the club. The survival of bankruptcy and the survival of the club after the Munich Air Disaster which saw eight players die on their way back home from a European Cup match in Belgrade. The history of the club has been upturned and shaken out just to earn more money.

United literally lost the majority of a team to play in a European competition, which later became the UEFA Champions League. For ten years, United fought back from the aches of Munich to lift that blessed trophy in the honour of those that died a decade before. Sir Matt Busby steered United from death to glory to the pinnacle of Europe. In the years following Busby, United stuttered, were relegated and then fought back to reach the top-flight of English football once more. The years later, the success of Sir Alex Ferguson in his near 27-years at the help of the club brought that fighting spirit back once again.

The Glazers are greedy, money-motivated owners that don’t deserve Manchester United.

When Malcolm Glazer took over Manchester United in 2005, a loan was taken out and leveraged against the football club. The Glazer family are clear of debt and for 16 years now, United have been stuck with a massive debt which is no closer to being paid off. Having a debt lowers taxes and that is a must for money-men like the Glazers. The history of this football club is just something they can market and profit from – they don’t care about the blood, sweat and the tears of the players, the supporters and the manager’s throughout the history of the club. They care about the strength of the love for the club, which is now dying in many places.

United have won many trophies during the Glazer’s ownership but that was down to one man; Sir Alex Ferguson. United have won five Premier League titles, one FA Cup, three League Cups, four FA Community Shields, one UEFA Champions League and one FIFA Club World Cup in Ferguson’s time under the Glazers. Post-Ferguson, United have won one FA Community Shield, one League Cup and one UEFA Europa League. The success was not because of the Glazer’s – it was because of the merit of the manager (at the time), the players and the backroom staff. The Glazer’s don’t care about winning things, as has been seen post-Ferguson.

You see, the Glazers and Woodward celebrate impressions on social media, sponsorship deals and other commercial dealings which bring money to the club. More recently, the Glazers have ben celebrating the fact that United’s shares are at a high rate so they can sell some lower category shares to line their pockets some more – as if they have not taken enough already. The formation of this European Super League will create endless revenue streams for the Glazer’s, which is the success that seem to value. Cold hard cash. It will see the club turn its back on its traditions, history and more importantly, the future.

When history and tradition is eradicated from Manchester United, what is left?

Manchester United have a rich history and tradition. The club has always strived to create young players who rise into their first team and drive the team towards success. Granted, that does not always happen but there is a rich picking of youth coming through the ranks throughout the history of the club, winning trophies. Then there are special periods where players either succeeded or were stopped in their tracks by tragedy. The Busby Babes of 1958 were the ones that were stopped by tragedy but the Class of 1992 were the ones that went all the way to becoming the pinnacle of European football once again. On Sir Matt Busby’s birthday too.

United have a record which lasts more than 80 years having included at least one youth player that came through the academy in every league match. If United are no longer allowed to participate in the Premier League, or any other league in the land, that tradition stops right there – and there is a feeling that this tradition would continue for many years to come. United’s academy has some talented players in the ranks but what could happen with them. Surely many of them want to play in the Premier League, the Champions League, aiming to lift the famous trophies one day. What about their dreams? Let them achieve at another club?

You see, the Glazers have profited from the traditions and history of the club and they will presumably continue to do that in this Super League, but they will have ended those traditions and become a smudge in the very history of the club. Money is the route to all evils and that seems to be the very thing the Glazer’s want – money. These American owners don’t see to understand why leagues here have relegation, as they don’t in America. They don’t seen to understand the word competition. To do this would be a sad end to a once great football club. The Glazer’s will be the death of the club and they just don’t care about that.

What is being done to stop this greedy mess from ruining football for the United faithful and others?

It has been reported that FIFA and UEFA are against the formation of a European Super League. There are sanctions that can be brought against the clubs involved, but as sooner as that is said, the clubs can appear these sanctions in court – so there is no way to tell if the sanctions will be upheld or whether the breakaway clubs will win. UEFA has also suggested that clubs would be kicked out of UEFA led competitions; the Champions League, Europa League and the Super Cup. Players of the breakaway clubs could also be banned from playing for their countries in the UEFA European Championships and the FIFA World Cup.

There is a lot to lose for these clubs, all for a glorified friendly competition where a trophy with no history will be presented, plus bags of cash, which is the real prize the clubs are interested in. If these clubs are willing to bring an end to players striving to win the Premier League, the FA Cup, League Cup and qualify for European competition, they will be taking away hopes and dreams of the younger players too. The youth leagues will be affected. I very much doubt that United will be able to participate in the U18 Premier League, the FA Youth Cup, the Premier League 2 and the Papa John’s Trophy. What then? Abolish the youth teams and get rid of identity?

United are a club that has these traditions in the DNA. They largely predicted players from the clubs academy, bringing them to first team standard. The Busby Babes, Fergie’s Fledglings and so on. Then there are the league titles, of which United have 20; 13 Premier League titles and seven First Division titles. This success will mean nothing if the Super League is allowed to start. Money is not really what supporters want to see clubs winning as miscreant owners don’t use that money within the club, they use it one themselves. As Sir Matt Busby one said; “Football is nothing without fans.”.

The Premier League is holding a meeting on Tuesday with the 14 Premier League teams not involved in the Super League. This could result in teams involved in the Super League being suspended from the league, which is the worst case scenario. It is something that needs to be carefully considered though as the league will be severely weakened with these six teams being removed permanently. What a mess this has created.

Written by John Walker

Tactical Analysis: Rotations and the Five Attacking Corridors Model – Manchester United 2-0 Granada

On Thursday evening, Manchester United secured their place in the semi-final of the Europa League after taking advantage of their 2-0 aggregate lead from the first leg. The victory was achieved through a professional performance and as United’s team is vastly superior to that of Granada’s, there was little need for any of the tactical intricacies Ole Gunnar Solskjaer produced against Spurs on Sunday. The game did, however, provide the opportunity to educate on the attacking principles Solskjaer is looking from his team and how the players are starting to show an understanding of these principles. 

Before moving onto the game, it is important to have a brief understanding of the five attacking corridors model. As demonstrated in the image below, the common theory applied in top level coaching is there are five vertical corridors in football: the wings, the half spaces, and the centre. 

The idea behind these corridors is that teams should look to have one player occupying each of these corridors. These five players will often be positioned between the lines of the opposition defence and midfield. The remaining five outfield players will then usually adopt a “3-2” or a “2-3” type formation in front of the oppositions defence and midfield lines. The tactical differences between the two variances are beyond the scope of this article so let us continue to focus on the attacking five. The idea behind the five corridors is to provide optimal spacing across the width of the pitch to stretch the opposition defensive lines. The five players deeper then move the ball from side to side with the goal of opening one of these corridors and progressing the ball forward through it. Below is an example of how United setup in this formation. 

Here, United have adopted a 2-3-5 type formation with Axel Tuanzebe and Victor Lindelof at the back, Nemanja Matic, Fred and Paul Pogba in the middle zone with Alex Telles, Bruno Fernandes, Edinson Cavani, Mason Greenwood and Aaron Wan-Bissaka (on the right, out of shot) as the five most advanced players. To play out the move, Pogba moves the ball into the right-wing corridor to Wan-Bissaka, who then attempts to cross the ball into the three central players, who move into the box in anticipation for the cross. 

An important concept of Solskjaer’s tactical theory here is not only to have one player occupying each of these positions, but for the players to rotate within the formation. As seen in the example before, Pogba, who is originally positioned on the left of midfield to primarily occupy the left half space, is found in possession as one of the deeper three midfielders. This then allows Bruno to move into the left half space. In the example below, the players rotate again. 

Here, United are now taking up a 3-2-5 type formation, with Matic dropping in as a left centre back. Fernandes has dropped deep to form the middle two with Fred and Pogba is occupying the left half space, with both full backs pushed forward and Cavani and Greenwood out of shot occupying the central and right half space, respectively. As demonstrated, there is an emphasis on the players to interchange positions with the aim of further disorganising the opposition defensive setup and this is what led to the first goal.

In the above image, Fernandes has moved into the middle zone to join Fred and Matic, drawing the Granada defender (number two) with him and freeing up the left half space. Pogba, who was originally in the box for Wan-Bissaka’s earlier cross attempt, recognises Fernandes’ movement and the space left as a result. Pogba understands it is his responsibility to move forward into the left half space now that Fernandes has moved into the middle zone, whilst also recognising the opportunity to receive the ball in a dangerous position. 

Telles spots Pogba moving into the space created by Fernandes and plays an accurate ball into the space and finds Pogba successfully, who then flicks the ball back to Cavani to strike on the volley and score. It is also important to note the positions of Greenwood and Wan-Bissaka. As the ball was in a crossing position with Telles, Greenwood and Wan-Bissaka have both moved inside, the former to get into the box for an opportunity to score and the latter to pick up any second balls which may arise.

The rotations from the players were a constant feature of United’s play throughout the first half and it became evident the players were starting to form subtle understandings with each other. Pogba in many cases was the catalyst, as he and Fernandes interchanged throughout the half and both had license to roam. Solskjaer has played Pogba in the left midfield role several times this season and before he was substituted at half time, it was clear to see why. Pogba is able to have a greater impact in forward positions coming in from the left and has better prospects to form an understanding with Fernandes, one which United fans have been excited to see develop since Pogba’s return from injury. 

When Pogba is played deeper in midfield next to one holder, it makes it harder for him to effectively link up with the forwards and hopefully this article provides a little more insight into the reasons behind that. With Pogba deep, he is unable to occupy positions further forward as there are already too many players rotating between the five forward positions and he is often restricted to operating in the middle zone. He can still be effective here due to his elite passing range but is rarely afforded the opportunity to make the difference in the opposition box, like he did against Granada and also against AC Milan earlier in the competition. 

Written by Chris Greening

copyright: JW