EUROPA LEAGUE FINAL ODDS: Villarreal +390 | Draw +240 | Manchester United -125
WHEN: Wednesday, May 26th, 3:00pm EST
WHERE: PGE Arena, Gdansk, Poland
WATCH: Paramount+ in the US
After a gap of 3 years, Manchester United finally plays their first cup final under Ole Gunnar Solskjaer against Villarreal. This isn’t necessarily a trophy they’re necessarily be delighted with, but winning the Europa League at least breaks their trophy drought of nearly 5 years & gives Solskjaer his first real silverware.
However, a daunting proposition lies await. Unai Emery serves as an immaculate threat in the Europa League. To explain his dominance in numbers – this will be the 5th UEL final Emery takes charge of. He’s won 3 out of the 4 his teams have played in. The Spaniard really is the final boss of the Europa League.
The Red Devils haven’t made things easier on themselves with their poor recent form. It’s clear if they really want to finish their season on a high – the players have to produce their best performance of the campaign.
Villarreal Likely XI
Rulli, Gaspar, Albiol, Torres, Pedraza, Coquelin, Parejo, Capoue, Moreno, Trigueros, Alcacer
The Yellow Submarines are missing a few first-teamers for this – with Samuel Chukuwueze, Vicente Iborra &Juan Foyth ruled out.
Manchester United Likely XI
De Gea, Wan-Bissaka, Lindelof, Bailly, Shaw, Fred, McTominay, Pogba, Bruno, Rashford, Cavani
Harry Maguire is unlikely to make it for the final. Scott McTominay’s struggling a bit with his fitness but is likely to be fit for this one.
Villarreal vs Manchester United preview
Man United progressed into the Europa League final with a crushing win over AS Roma – but their form has fallen since then. The Red Devils have lost 2 out of their last 4 games and seem to be on freefall mode.
Then again, it could be a case of Solskjaer preserving his best for last. After all, he rested all his important regulars for their final Premier League game of the season. United fans will surely hope that’s the case. Irrespective, the Red Devils need to play to their best ability to lift another Europa League trophy.
Their attack line – for one – has to be at their ruthless best to torment the La Liga side. Edinson Cavani goes into this game with 9 goals in his last 11 appearances. United need their no.7 to be at his deadliest, tormenting defenders with his slick movement & produce his most clutch finishing.
Bruno Fernandes has officially been awarded United’s Player of the Season & has to prove why he got it. The Portuguese midfielder’s a Europa League king – having contributed goals in nearly every single UEL game for United this season.
Fernandes needs to stop experimenting and start getting things right. He’ll mostly be tightly marked, so has to produce clever movement to fool the opponents players, produce more of his brilliant defence-splitting passes & capitalize on whatever goal-scoring chances he gets (penalty included).
Paul Pogba & Marcus Rashford are the only United stars still remaining from the 2017 Europa League winning squad. They’ll have big roles to ensure a repeat of that. Pogba should play in a more attacking role. He’ll be tasked with cleverly linking up with Fernandes & Cavani as well as producing chances with his sweet final third passes.
Rashford could end up forced to start in that uncomfortable right-wing role again. Irrespective, he’ll be charged to win a title for his boyhood side & look to torment defenders with his surging runs. The 22-year-old needs to be more decisive in the final third & finish off his chances without any hiccups in the final.
Fred & Scott McTominay should be directed to ensure that United dominate possession seamlessly & bully the Villarreal midfielders. The midfield battle in this one should be an intriguing one.
With experienced candidates like the stylish Dani Parejo, aggressive Francis Coquelin & hard-working Etienne Capoue, Villarreal are more than capable of running the show. They’ll also have plenty of defensive cover, so United has to be their creative best to break them.
Villarreal might be happy to let United dominate possession, but will be feisty on the break. With United’s backline looking vulnerable without Maguire, Emery will be licking his lips. The in-form Gerard Moreno – who ended the La Liga season with 23 goals & 7 assists – is a tormenting figure in attack. With his unpredictable movement & skilfull nature – he can cause big problems & also get among the goals if given enough free room.
Paco Alcacer’s another deadly finisher who doesn’t need many chances to score. Giving him an inch of space could cause trouble. Manuel Trigueros’ possess a wicked left-foot capable of causing real menace. Parejo is very creative with his forward passing – while wing-backs Mario Gasper & Alfonso Pedraza are viable threats going forward.
It’s time for Victor Lindelof & Eric Bailly to work together and prove their might. The duo must work together to maintain an unbreakable defensive shape – with Aaron Wan-Bissaka & Luke Shaw also needing to be defensively perfect to stop Villarreal’s flow from the sides.
United can’t concede many set-pieces or let crosses come in because of how poor they are dealing with them. David de Gea has his work cut out for him. The Spaniard must prove his quality by turning into Superman mode & coming up with clutch saves.
This game could be cagey if Villarreal park the bus or really end-to-end if they decide to go with an all-guns blazing approach. United can’t keep a clean sheet to save their lives right now – so have to score many goals. The Red Devils’ are likely to create many chances – but importantly – they need to capitalize on them & produce their best finishing to win the trophy.
Ugh, this is a difficult one to predict. United’s current form & Emery UEL record makes it very tricky. My brain calls for a Villarreal win, my heart’s predicting a United one. I’ll cut it down the middle & predict a 1-1 draw to force extra-time – after which United get the win.
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