Sevilla's Jesus Navas: Our plan to stop United
Sevilla skipper Jesus Navas has identified Manchester United’s attacking trident of Mason Greenwood, Anthony Martial and Marcus Rashford as the biggest threat to Spanish success in Sunday’s Europa League semi-final.
The former Manchester City winger is looking forward to facing United once again, after taking part in eight Manchester derbies during a four-year spell with the Blues between 2013 and 2017.
Since returning to Spain, the World Cup winner has become the senior player at his boyhood club and also been converted to a right-back, which means he will most likely be given the task of stopping Marcus Rashford at Stadion Koln this weekend.
“We know they’re tough opponents and it’ll be difficult,” the diminutive Navas told UEFA earlier this week. “In terms of their individual players, they’ve got some quick players up top who are dangerous.
“I’ve played against them several times. I recall the passion surrounding the [Manchester derby from my time at Manchester City]. I was lucky enough to appear in some really special games and those were great times.”
While Sevilla enjoyed an overwhelming 75 per cent of possession during their 1-0 quarter-final win over Wolverhampton Wanderers, Navas seemed to hint that his team might opt for a more counterattacking style in Cologne this weekend.
“We’re focusing on ourselves and knowing what we have to do in each game – and, particularly, keeping calm when necessary and then attacking at pace,” he explained. “We’re clear about what we have to do at every stage.
“The important thing is that we go into Sunday’s game with all the hope in the world of reaching the final. We’ll be going all out to win.”
Only fellow semi-finalists Internazionale (eight times) have reached the last four of this competition more times than Sevilla (seven), and they have also won the competition more times than any other club (five).
The Spanish international was part of Los Nervionenses’ successes in 2006 and 2007, but was in Manchester when they picked up their last three Europa League titles (2014, 2015, 2016). Understandably, the 34-year-old is desperate to add a sixth triumph to the club’s honours list and lift the trophy as captain.
“It means everything, absolutely everything,” said Navas, who also played in his club's 2018 Champions League last-16 tie against United. “It’s where I grew up and took my first steps in the game and became a footballer. I've given my all for Sevilla and will give my all to be in that final. I hope we can bring another trophy back for the fans.
“Given the difficult times we’re all experiencing, being able to win the Europa League for the fans and all of us would be really great. It would also be special, as captain and as somebody from Seville, to enjoy lifting the trophy. It would be really nice for me.”