Roma line up

Your guide to United's Europa League semi-final

Tuesday 27 April 2021 09:40

An 18th European semi-final awaits for Manchester United, as we welcome Roma to Old Trafford on Thursday in the last four of the UEFA Europa League.

It will be the Reds’ second meeting with a Serie A side this season, after dispatching Roma’s Serie A rivals AC Milan in the round of 16.

As we approach the business end of the season, let’s take a look at all the essential info ahead of the game…


The contest kicks off at 20:00 BST on Thursday and will be broadcast live in the UK via BT Sport. You can also follow the action via and our Official App, where you’ll be able to check the live in-game data through our Match Centre. MUTV will also be providing build-up, live radio commentary and post-match reaction, and will show full reruns of the 90 minutes from the following day.

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Harry Maguire, Luke Shaw and Scott McTominay all served one-match suspensions during the quarter-final second leg victory over Granada and are available to play in the Europa League once again. Previous yellow cards are ‘wiped’ from the semi-final stage onwards, meaning United’s only absentees are injury-related, in Anthony Martial and Phil Jones.

The visitors welcomed former Reds defender Chris Smalling back from a six-week-long lay-off for the weekend defeat to Cagliari, but another Premier League old boy, ex-Chelsea winger Pedro, is set to miss the first leg with a muscular injury. Young full-back Riccardo Calafiori has been struggling with a similar issue, while highly rated midfielder Nicolo Zaniolo is still recovering after tearing his ACL last September, while on international duty. Another Italy player, centre-back Gianluca Mancini, is suspended.


The Reds are unbeaten in Europe after dropping out of the Champions League just prior to Christmas, having seen off Real Sociedad (4-0 on aggregate), AC Milan (2-1) and Granada (4-0) to make it to this stage. Thursday’s opponents have been in the Europa League since the group stages, having qualified by finishing fifth in Serie A last season. 

The Giallorossi breezed through Group A, collecting 13 of the possible 18 points against Young Boys, Cluj and CSKA Sofia. In the knockout rounds, they dispatched Braga and Shakhtar Donetsk equally convincingly, winning both ties 5-1 on aggregate, but were given a real test in the quarter-finals by Ajax, despite a 2-1 victory in Amsterdam. When Dusan Tadic hit the net a week later to seemingly make it 2-0 on the night at the Stadio Olimpico, it looked like the Dutch side had turned the tie around, but the Serbian’s effort was ruled out by VAR and Edin Dzeko popped up moments later to send Roma through.


United have performed strongly after the March international break, winning five straight games in all competitions before Sunday’s goalless draw with Leeds United at Elland Road. That run has helped us to consolidate second position in the Premier League and make the semi-finals of the Europa League for the third time in five years.

The picture in April has been a little less encouraging for the Giallorossi, the Ajax tie aside. Roma lost their last two league games before the break and have won just one of five Serie A fixtures since – a 1-0 success over Bologna – to leave Paulo Fonseca’s men with an uphill task in terms of qualifying for Europe next season. A 3-2 defeat at Cagliari on Sunday means the capital club are now six points behind city rivals Lazio, who have a game in hand and occupy the final European position in the league.

Edin Dzeko's goal secured Roma's progress from the quarter-finals.


The sides have met on six previous occasions, crammed into a 12-month spell between 4 April 2007 and 9 April 2008. The most memorable clash, of course, was the 7-1 thumping at Old Trafford in the Champions League quarter-finals, when a rampant United overturned a first-leg deficit to knock Luciano Spalletti’s talented side out. The following season, the Reds won three of the four games against Roma – at home in the group phase, and both legs in the quarter-finals - on our way to European glory. Cristiano Ronaldo’s extraordinary header at the Stadio Olimpico, to open the scoring in the last-eight tie, was a standout moment.


Former Reds star Henrikh Mkhitaryan is, even at the age of 32, one of European football’s cannier playmakers, registering 11 goals and 11 assists in 39 games this season. The prime beneficiaries of the Armenian’s creativity are forwards Borja Mayoral – the joint-leading scorer in this season’s competition – and targetman Dzeko, although Jordan Veretout – once of Aston Villa – has been the most productive source of goals in Serie A. Things have been less settled at the other end of the pitch, with Roma conceding more than any other side in Italy’s top half, but right-back Rick Karsdorp has finally emerged as a regular this term, four years after joining from Ajax.

Watch highlights of the 7-1 win over Roma.


Paulo Fonseca is a coach with plenty of European pedigree, counting Porto, Braga and Shakhtar Donetsk among his previous employers. The Portuguese was appointed boss at the Stadio Olimpico in 2019, after a trophy-laden spell in Ukraine, and guided the Romans to a respectable fifth-placed finish in his first campaign, plus the quarter-finals of the Coppa Italia. The 48-year-old, who was a centre-back during his playing days, favours a possession-based style of play and acknowledges his side will need to be positive on Thursday.

“It’s true that Manchester United are very dangerous on the counter-attack, but we must realise it’ll be really difficult if we go to Manchester and just defend,” said Fonseca. “We need to keep the ball and make it difficult for them. The team must show character and not sit too deep.”

Roma boss Paulo Fonseca.


Our Premier League rivals Arsenal travel to Spain to take on Villarreal and former manager Unai Emery, in a clash between two sides familiar with this stage of the competition. The Gunners, who have won nine of their 12 games in this season’s tournament, are in the last four for the third time in four years, while their La Liga opponents were knocked out in the semi-finals in 2004, 2011 and 2016. Emery is aiming for a fifth Europa League final, having claimed three consecutive titles with Sevilla in the Europa League, before taking Arsenal to the showpiece event, where they were beaten by Chelsea in Baku, in 2019.

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