Villarreal v United: Match preview
Manchester United are hunting another major European trophy, as we take on Villarreal in the Europa League final on Wednesday.
A limited number of Reds supporters will travel to Gdansk in Poland, hoping to remember the port city alongside London, Rotterdam, Barcelona, Moscow and Stockholm as places of continental triumph.
Standing in our way are the team known as the Yellow Submarine who, after several semi-final appearances over the last 15 years, are in with a chance of breaking their major trophy drought.
Our big match preview has you covered for everything you need to know…
HOW CAN I FOLLOW THE MATCH?
The final kicks off at 20:00 BST on Wednesday and, if you are in the UK, you can watch it live on BT Sport or via their YouTube channel, where it is being streamed for free. You can also follow the action via ManUtd.com and our Official App, where you can get stuck into the Match Centre to get in-game statistics and insight. MUTV coverage begins from 18:30 BST, revealing the team news on the hour before match commentary, analysis, interviews and reaction.
Harry Maguire and Anthony Martial are major doubts for the Reds, having had to sit out of the end of our domestic campaign. Maguire damaged ankle ligaments at Aston Villa two weeks ago and has only just started walking without crutches, although Ole Gunnar Solskjaer said he will be afforded as much time as he needs to prove his fitness. Martial hasn’t played for two months due to a knee problem, although the boss said he hopes he could be involved in some form. Otherwise, Ole is keeping his cards close to his chest regarding his selection, with goalkeeper, centre-back and right-wing areas where two or more players are competing for one place.
Villarreal boss Unai Emery is still optimistic that winger Samuel Chukwueze and defender Juan Foyth – who is on loan from Tottenham – could be involved. The pair picked up injuries during the semi-final tie with Arsenal and haven’t played since. Captain Mario Gaspar will be the prime candidate to replace the latter if he doesn’t make it, while Yeremi Pino and Manu Trigueros could feature out wide. Etienne Capoue can play again after suspension, but Vicente Iborra is out for the long-term.
All eyes have been on this final for the last three weeks and, with little to play for domestically, both managers have taken the opportunity to rotate their sides. United finished our Premier League campaign with two wins, a draw and two defeats in the final five games, ensuring we ended the campaign in second place, while Villarreal gained nine points in the same period of time, to secure a Europa Conference League spot. At the weekend, the Reds made 10 changes, granting opportunities to young players like Amad, Anthony Elanga and Brandon Williams, as we beat Wolves 2-1 at Molineux. Villarreal fielded a strong line-up at Real Madrid, who were chasing the title on the final day of the season. Yeremi gave the Yellow Submarine a 20th-minute lead, but late goals from Karim Benzema and Luka Modric gave Los Blancos victory, although city rivals Atletico also won to lift the trophy.
THE ROAD TO THE FINAL
United, of course, dropped into the Europa League in February, having been knocked out of the Champions League in the group stages. We beat Villarreal’s compatriots Real Sociedad 4-0 on aggregate, before Paul Pogba’s goal at the San Siro helped us edge past Milan, 2-1. A further four-goal triumph was recorded over Granada in the quarter-finals, before an exciting semi-final tie with Roma ended 8-5 on aggregate, with Edinson Cavani helping himself to four across the two games.
Our opponents have built an impressive 14-match unbeaten run in this season’s competition, with the Spanish side comfortably finishing top of a group containing Sivasspor, Qarabag and Maccabi Tel Aviv. They then won both legs of their round-of-32, round-of-16 and quarter-final ties with RB Salzburg (4-1 on aggregate), Dynamo Kiev (4-0) and Dinamo Zagreb (3-1) respectively, to set up a semi-final with manager Emery’s former club Arsenal. Goals from Manu Trigueros and Raul Albiol secured a slender 2-1 advantage to take to north London, and a scoreless draw at the Emirates a week later ensured a first major European final in the club’s history.
United and Villarreal have met four times previously, facing off in the group stages of the Champions League in 2005/06 and 2008/09. Remarkably, all four clashes with the Yellow Submarine ended goalless – let’s hope for a little more entertainment on Wednesday!
WHO’S THE MANAGER?
Emery is a coach familiar to English football fans, with the Spaniard occupying the hot-seat at Arsenal for 18 months between May 2018 and November 2019. During that time, he guided the Gunners to the final of this competition, where they lost 4-1 to Chelsea in Baku, and his record in the Europa League is exemplary. This will be Emery’s fifth European final as a manager, as he masterminded Sevilla’s wins in 2014, 2015 and 2016, and only Sir Alex Ferguson and Giovanni Trapattoni can beat that number.
PLAYERS TO WATCH
The Yellow Submarine boast plenty of firepower up top, with Carlos Bacca and Paco Alcacer having real pedigree in this competition. The star man, though, is Gerard Moreno. The 29-year-old is something of a late bloomer but has been the top-scoring Spaniard in each of the last two seasons in La Liga. He’s also netted six goals in this season’s Europa League, and is expected to play a big part in the national team’s upcoming Euro 2020 campaign. Further back, Villarreal boast plenty of experience, with centre-back Raul Albiol having seen it all with club and country. Dani Parejo is the side’s creative outlet, while Spanish international centre-back Pau Torres is highly coveted across the continent.
Referee: Clement Turpin (France)
Assistants: Nicolas Danos, Cyril Gringore (both France)
Fourth official: Slavko Vincic (Slovenia)
VAR: Francois Letexier (France)
VAR Assistants: Jerome Brisard, Benjamin Pages (both France), Paulus van Boekel (Netherlands)