Manchester United are hunting another major European trophy, as we take on Villarreal in the Europa League final on Wednesday.
Villarreal’s La Liga campaign ended in disappointment with a 2-1 defeat to eventual runners-up Real Madrid on Saturday, whereas United secured victory in the Premier League by the same scoreline over Wolverhampton Wanderers.
Villarreal boss Emery has refused to rule out Chukwueze’s chances of making this week’s final, but having failed to make the cut against Real Madrid, the attacker is still a major doubt for the showpiece event.
Not even an early injury to scintillating attacker Samuel Chukwueze could dampen the spirits of Villarreal on the night, and as he did time and time again with Sevilla, Emery will endeavour to stamp his authority on Europe’s secondary competition as he seeks a fourth Europa League title since 2014.
With an astonishing record of 12 wins and two draws in their 14 Europa League matches so far, Villarreal may be the underdogs going into Wednesday’s final, but Emery just seems to have that secret formula for success on the continental stage and Man United would commit an act of folly if they failed to do their research on the opposing coach.
Having reached the semi-finals of Europe’s secondary competition three times in the past, Villarreal have now become the 11th different Spanish side to book their place in a continental final, and history favours them too, as English teams have now lost nine times in a row when facing Spanish sides in the final.
Furthermore, Emery’s exciting crop have found the back of the net in 13 of their 14 Europa League games so far this term with the goalless draw at the Emirates being the only exception and Gerard Moreno has been at the heart of it all with six goals and four assists en route to Gdansk.
Emery failed to secure a record-breaking haul of four Europa League wins with Arsenal after overseeing a 4-1 defeat to Chelsea in the 2018-19 final, but having already produced the goods against one English powerhouse, Villarreal must be paid the respect they deserve by a United side who are also no stranger to success in the tournament.
The Red Devils have undoubtedly been the favourites to go all the way in the Europa League since their ill-fated Champions League run came to an end, and they could now follow in the footsteps of long-time rivals Chelsea, who in 2013 became the first and only English side to win the Europa League after dropping out of Europe’s elite competition.
Solskjaer had steered his side to five wins from seven knockout matches before their recent defeat at Roma – an impressive feat considering that Real Sociedad and AC Milan are no pushovers – and a quarter-final success over Granada means that United certainly know how to get the better of Spanish sides on the continental stage.
Solskjaer still has his doubters, whose voices will certainly not be silenced if their trophy drought continues this week, but lifting the European trophy aloft should signal to the discontent fans – who continue to make their feelings towards the much-maligned Glazers known – that he is the right man to restore United to their former glories.
The 2013 Norwegian Cup represents Solskjaer’s only honour during his relatively brief managerial career so far, and adding to that modest haul will be no easy feat against Europa League aficionado Emery, who himself will endeavour to steer Villarreal into a new era with their first-ever major trophy 98 years after their inception.
Villarreal possible starting lineup:
Asenjo; Gaspar, Albiol, Torres, Pedraza; Trigueros, Capoue, Parejo, Yeremy; Moreno, Alcacer
Manchester United possible starting lineup:
De Gea; Wan-Bissaka, Lindelof, Bailly, Shaw; Fred, McTominay; Rashford, Fernandes, Pogba; Cavani