Who would United prefer in the semi-final?
Manchester United are into the last four of the Europa League, following Monday’s 1-0 win over FC Copenhagen in Cologne. But who will the Reds play next?
We’ll know the answer later tonight (Tuesday), after Wolverhampton Wanderers and Sevilla have duked it out in their quarter-final tie, which takes place some 70 kilometres north of Cologne at the MSV-Arena in Duisburg.
Both teams have history with United: Sevilla knocked us out of the Champions League in 2018 and Wolves, of course, have been regular foes in domestic football since our first meeting way back in 1892, though we've never met them in continental competition.
But who would be United’s preferred opponents this weekend?
Highlights: United 1 FC Copenhagen 0
Greenwood and Rashford both had goals disallowed, before Fernandes scored from the penalty spot...
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer claimed he didn’t mind after the Copenhagen match, though he will doubtless be delighted with the extra days’ rest afforded to his squad before Sunday’s contest.
So with Ole keeping his cards close to his chest, we asked two in-house Reds for their take on what will hopefully be our penultimate match of 2019/20…
SAM CARNEY (Wolves)
“Yes, I know what you’re thinking: not Wolves again. A semi-final encounter with the Black Country outfit would be a fifth meeting in just under a year and, while the Reds are unbeaten in four against Nuno Espirito Santo’s outfit, none of those fixtures have been classics. But in Europe, it can often be better the devil you know – think Arsenal at this stage in the Champions League in 2009, or the games against Chelsea in 2008 and 2011. As accomplished a side as the Midlanders are, they’re coming off the back of a campaign every bit as gruelling as our own and – don’t forget – are new to this stage of continental competition, with Sevilla being their first European quarter-final since 1972.
“Ultimately, we’re au fait with what Wolves have to offer – a rock-solid, well-organised defence, the unadulterated pace and trickery of Adama Traore and the sublime finishing skills offered by Raul Jimenez. Sevilla, by contrast, are the most thoroughbred of dark horses. Five-time winners, the Andalusians are unbeaten in 18 in all competitions since February. That sounds to me like a team you’d ideally like to avoid at all costs, especially with the spectre of a highly motivated Internazionale likely looming in the final.”
JOE GANLEY (Sevilla)
“I’ll level with everyone here: I’m fed up of watching us play Wolverhampton Wanderers. No disrespect to Nuno Espirito Santo and his well-assembled, Portuguese-infused squad – they’ve had another brilliant season. But this would be our eighth meeting with the Midlanders in less than two seasons. For whatever reason, our games with them are dreary, attritional and forgettable. That might not quite be the case here – win or lose, how can you forget a European semi-final? But you take my point. I’m up for something different.
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“Sevilla knocked us out of the Champions League at Old Trafford two years ago, in desperately disappointing circumstances. But United have come a long way since then. I remember Marcus Rashford slamming the roof of the tunnel in frustration as he left the field that night, but look at him and the rest of United’s forward line now: they’re purring. Knocking the Andalusians out of Europe would be a pleasing shot of revenge, and a welcome line in the sand to show how far we’ve progressed since 2018.
“It would arguably be a tougher game: Julen Lopetegui’s side are just as defensively solid as Wolves – they boast the second-best backline in La Liga. But let’s remember: Ole’s side do well against stronger opposition. There was just one defeat in 10 Premier League games against fellow top six sides in 2019/20. So it might suit United. Either way, it will be something fresher, and – on the field, at least – it will feel like a proper European semi-final and not mere deja vu. That will be exciting for us fans, and it should bring the best out of the players. If we're successful, it will probably knock the best remaining team in the competition out, too.”
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