Manchester United travel to the Stadion Energa in Gdansk, Poland to take on the deemed home team Villarreal in the final of the prestigious UEFA Europa League competition on 26 May 2021, Wednesday. Spanish side Villarreal are most likely going to finish at the seventh position of the La Liga competition table whereas the visiting side Manchester United have secured a second-place finish for themselves in the Premier League table. This game is going to be a very important one for the Red Devils from Manchester as it is going to be one of the few times that they have managed to reach the final of a major competition, and the pressure on their manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer to deliver a trophy to the Old Trafford faithful is going to be extremely high. Manchester United’s Norwegian manager finds himself in an unenviable position but we think that his side has the ability to make the most of this opportunity.
What is standing in the way of Manchester United’s imminent takeover of the UEFA Europa League is Villarreal’s manage Unai Emery. Deemed as a specialist in this particular competition, the Spaniard, who used to coach Arsenal until a couple of years ago (after being passed over surprisingly for former club central midfielder Mikel Arteta), has won three titles during his time at Sevilla. He also became a runner-up of the same trophy in the 2018–19 season with the North London club. Therefore, it has to be said that the Spaniard has very good experience at handling this competition and Manchester United can afford to take him and his side lightly only at their own peril. Solskjaer, quite naturally, has played down any talks of complacency and there should not be any, given the way the Red Devils finished the Premier League season, by the skin of their teeth.
PREVIEW OF MANCHESTER UNITED- THEIR STRENGTHS AND WEAKNESSES
Manchester United have had a very good time under relatively new manager Solskjaer ever since he took over from incumbent Jose Mourinho in the 2018–19 season. They have managed to finish in the third position and second position of the English Premier League competition table in the 2019–20 and the 2020–21 seasons respectively. They also managed to make it as far as the semi finals of the Europa League in the 2019–20 season before being knocked out by Sevilla, who were managed by former Spain head coach Julien Lopetegui. In this season, too they have done well in the knockout cup competitions held in England every year (that is, the FA Cup and the English League Cup, or Carabao Cup) without winning the title. This should give them a lot of confidence and make them aware that they have it in them to go all the way.
One of Manchester United’s greatest threats is their power-packed attacking lineup. They have so many creative attacking minded players in their roster that sometimes it gets difficult for manager Solskjaer to pick the right combination. This can be understood from a perfect example of a ploy that worked out for the Red Devils recently. Although the squad has the likes of Mason Greenwood and Daniel James as specific wingers, manager Solskjaer tried attacking midfielder Paul Pogba on the left hand side of the team’s attack earlier this season and so brilliantined was the temperamental Frenchman’s performance that whenever fit, he has drifted into that position quite easily and comfortably. Along with the likes of Bruno Fernandes and Marcus Rashford, who play as the central attacking midfielder and right wing attacker respectively, Pogba has fashioned a very strong goalscoring attacking lineup.
With the summer signing of Edinson Cavani on a free transfer, Manchester United currently have their hands full with strikers. While the incumbent club stalwart Anthony Martial is most likely to miss this clash due to injury, manager Solskjaer may choose to go with either Cavani at the top of the attack or the young Greenwood. Chances are that Solskjaer is going to side with the latter, especially after the stunning performance he put up against Fulham at Old Trafford in front of the fans, who were returning there after more than a year. The stunning long-range goal he struck from an exquisite Bruno Fernandes assist just seemed to sum up his day. The Uruguyan has adjusted to life in Manchester very well and with the extension of his contract, the fans of the Red Devils can expect to see many more such performances in the future. For the time being, he appears to be the most likely to start as the lone striker against Villarreal.
There can be no doubt in my mind that Manchester United’s greatest weakness lies in their defence. They have regularly faltered at the back trying to keep shots away and now with their captain Harry Maguire all but ready to miss this clash due to the ligament tear he suffered against Aston Villa in the Premier League a week ago, it looks difficult how the Red Devils are going to manage. Maguire’s regular partner in the heart of United’s defence, Victor Lindelof, has had a below average season so far and caught the flak from pundits and fans for his poor technical performances many times now. There is no doubt that playing alongside Maguire helps Lindelof raise his game but if the former indeed misses out on Wednesday, then he will have to lead the United back line with aplomb.
United fare much better in the wings, with the likes of Luke Shaw at left back and Aaron Wan Bissaka at right back doing more than enough to keep their manager and fans of the Red Devils happy. The latter, although found wanting in the attacking third of United’s attack due to some questionable crosses, has had a more than decent time trying to negate opposition wingers and cutting them short whenever they have tried to go past him. In the goalkeeping department, United are blessed by having not one but two top-class custodians. Both David de Gea and Dean Henderson are in excellent form, but we expect the former to get the nod over the latter between the sticks on Wednesday.
PREVIEW OF VILLARREAL- THEIR STRENGTHS AND WEAKNESSES
Villarreal have regularly punched way above their station in the Spanish La Liga competition this season and they will hope to be the party poopers to Manchester United in the final of the Europa League on Wednesday. Manager Unai Emery will face off against his old rival Solskjaer, with whom he had a bittersweet relationship during his Arsenal days. Solskjaer, however, has nothing but good things to say for the Spaniard and we expect that the two gentlemen will be on friendly terms here for this all-important clash. Emery will try to make sure that his team begins the game on the front foot and does not go back when pressed relentlessly by the United attackers. Other than that, Villarreal will also have to sit deep with the ball and wait for the Red Devils to attack because if they do not do so, Manchester United are bound to find gaps in their defence and exploit them ruthlessly.
Villarreal’s strengths, just like their opponents Manchester United, lie in their attacking force. They have a host of solid options at the top of that attack which includes the likes of Paco Alcacer and Gerard Moreno. The latter is the club’s leading goalscorer for the season and the former is second although there is quite a gap between the two. While Moreno has 23 strikes to his name so far, Alcacer has 6. Carlos Baca and Samuel Chukweze have also stepped up for Emery from time to time and nobody can deny the influence that these two have had on their club’s attacking talents. Of course, Alcacer has made much fewer appearances than Moreno has done, which explains why his tally is way less than the latter.
Villarreal have an impressive pass percentage of 85.3 in this competition and that is again one of their biggest strengths. They like to play at a high speed and keep the ball moving by rotating into different positions. However, as I have stated above, they will have to sit deep if they wish to countermand Manchester United’s threat on Wednesday. They will only make it easy for their opponents if they leave their flanks empty.
Defensively, or attacking-wise, Villarreal are very poor at winning aerial duels. This can be a big factor in a final match and one that they will be hoping to overcome and improve upon in the coming days. Manchester United have a squad that relies of height and their ability to make themselves big, and if Villarreal fail to match up to the challenge, then they will be in deep trouble. The possession-based football that they play will invite Manchester United to leave the safety of their harbour and approach them with the sight of goal in mind. Emery needs to capitalise on this.
This game between Villarreal and Manchester United is going to be an absolute cracker of a contest and we are sure that the fans of both the teams are going to enjoy it wholeheartedly. For the best betting tips regarding this game, or any other for that matter, you can head to the Mighty Tips website, which is a leading betting tips and correct score predictions website. This match will see Manchester United enter as favourites but only the end of the evening will decide which way the die will be cast. There has rarely been as exciting a Europa League final in the recent past.