The club season is drawing to a close and Manchester United have the opportunity to become the third English club to lift a trophy this season. They will be facing La Liga side Villarreal in Gdansk and hoping to overcome Unai Emery, who has won the Europa League on three previous occasions. Interestingly, ten of the last 17 winners of the competition have been from Spain. In the last nine years, the winners have originated from either Spain or England and that record will continue for a tenth year. Unlike Villarreal, Manchester United have previously lifted the Europa League in 2017.
The pressure will be on Manchester United in this fixture, as they have the more illustrious history in European competition. Ole Gunnar Solskjaer will think that he has made progress this season at Old Trafford, but he has yet to lift a trophy since taking the manager’s job. United are a club that demands success and a victory on Wednesday will consolidate his position in the hot seat. They opted to play a weakened team in the final Premier League match of the season against Wolves, therefore their players should be well rested for the final.
This will be Villarreal’s first major European final, but they are in safe hands as Unai Emery has now led three different clubs to the final of the Europa League. Their league finish means that they have qualified for next season’s UEFA Europa Conference League. This means there will be the added incentive of earning qualification for next season’s Champions League with a victory on Wednesday night. Although they have had a relatively kind run to the final, they did overcome Arsenal in the semi-finals. This will give them confidence that they can beat another Premier League side to lift the trophy. Unlike Manchester United, the La Liga side didn’t fully rotate their team at the weekend.
Manchester United have kept clean sheets in five of their eight matches in the Europa League this season.
Villarreal haven’t lost a single match in the Europa League this season, having won 11 and drawn three of their 14 matches.
Bruno Fernandes has emerged as one of the best players in the Premier League since joining at the beginning of last year. However, he is yet to lift silverware at Old Trafford and he will be determined to correct that on Wednesday. He has been the talisman for Solskjaer since joining the club and an upturn in the team’s form can be tracked back to his arrival. Across the Champions League and Europa League, he has contributed nine goals and five assists, which emphasises how he can influence matches at the highest level. Despite his consistency, there are still some that doubt his ability in the biggest matches. This is an opportunity for the Portuguese midfielder to play a leading role in a European final and take momentum into the Euros this summer. Villarreal will set up to be difficult to break down, as this is the way Unai Emery knows how to win big matches. Fernandes has the quality to break them down with his creativity, while he can also pose a threat from range. He is the player that the Spanish side need to shut down.
This is going to be a good opportunity for Gerard Moreno to prove his quality in a huge game. He has been named in the Spanish squad for the Euros and there could be an opportunity for him to move to a bigger club based on his contribution to Villarreal this season. This season, he has scored 29 goals and grabbed nine assists across La Liga and the Europa League. It is an exceptional return for a 29-year-old forward. He will know that he is at the peak of his powers and this is a chance for him to leave a lasting impact on European football by leading Villarreal to their first European trophy. In recent years, he has been a consistent performer for the Spanish club, but he is now starting to establish himself in the European game. Manchester United are likely to be without captain Harry Maguire and they have yet to keep a clean sheet since his injury. There will be chances for Villarreal in attack. Moreno is the player likely to do the damage.
Solskjaer has talked down the hopes of Harry Maguire being passed fit to play, but the Manchester United manager hasn’t ruled it out. Fred and Scott McTominay should be passed fit to start, while Anthony Martial could be in line for a return to the squad.
Samuel Chukwueze is a major doubt for Villarreal after picking up an injury in a previous round. Juan Foyth and Vicente Iborra are also on the sidelines.
Villarreal are a dangerous outfit and they have a manager that knows how to win in this competition. They have some dangerous players in Moreno, Carlos Bacca and Dani Parejo, who can cause problems for Manchester United. That said, Manchester United have the better team and they should have the quality to lift the Europa League for the second time in their history. Bruno Fernandes, Paul Pogba and Edinson Cavani are some of the best players in Europe and all three should play a big part on Wednesday night.
Manchester United 3-1 Villarreal