Manchester United face Villarreal tomorrow in the Europa League Final and the final game of the 2020-2021 season, it might not be the final that United wants, but it is a final.
The true ambition of a club like United will always be the Champions League Final, every United supporter could agree, but the reality is, United is still a work in progress.
Too take that next step one can conclude that Manchester United must beat Villarreal in this final, if they do not, questions could arise about the capabilities of the players and coaching staff, could they compete for Champions League if they can not win the Europa League?
Manchester United’s Press Conference
Tomorrow’s final could be a catalyst for the future success of the club. Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has spoken about that during United’s Europa League run and used his own career as an analogy for how important a team winning a trophy is for the overall chemistry of that team, Ole said this before the Roma game.
“It will be a dream come true, the day I can lift a trophy for this club as a manager, of course. That’s what we’re building for. But for this team and for myself, our ambition this season is to finish it with lifting a trophy and being able to celebrate. I know how much that can mean to a group moving forward.”
“It gives you more of that feeling that you are hungrier for more, you want it all the time, you want that feeling again with your teammates,” said Ole in the press conference for the Europa League final.
Solskjaer also echoed that the final is not about him, and it is for the players.
“Just sit back and relax and, if you have to make decisions tomorrow, you have to do it. If it’s been 10 minutes and Luke’s sleeping on the other side, that’s a problem for him.”
Manchester United’s Squad Preview
It was announced last week that Harry Maguire will not feature in the final, a decent sized blow to the cohesion that the defense has created at times in the second half of the season.
Without Maguire, United have given up eight goals in their last four games, four of the goals came against Liverpool who cut United’s defense to shreds in the second half.
The center back pairing could be an interesting one, the pairing of Victor Lindelof and Eric Bailly looks the likeliest, but Axel Tuanzebe deserves a shout after the Fulham and Wolves games. His ability to mark quicker players was on display earlier in the season against PSG as well.
The center back pairing is of decent speculation, as well as who would be the first choice keeper, Dean Henderson and David de Gea have both been used in both European and domestic campaigns.
David de Gea has had some great saves lately and Henderson has benefitted have some great team performances. It is hard to say that the teams overall performances revolve around who the keeper is, but when Henderson is in goal the team seems more compact and tight.
When de Gea is in goal, there is almost like there is more trust that he can get a big save and bail out the team if the team plays more attacking.
At the weekend Wolves had only one solid chance, and they scored, Henderson had little to do all match, although it was a lot of youngsters there was emphasis tactical to stay compact.
The Milan games were like that as well, and those matches featured Henderson. When you compare the Milan matches to the Roma matches, it is night and day.
In the Roma matches, de Gea’s talents were on full display in both matches, and Manchester United played some extremely entertaining football because you have a shot stopper that allows your team to go for it.
The decision who starts has massive implications on the game, but also who is going to be the keeper in the future with the club. Tom Heaton looks set to sign and is a likely backup keeper for Manchester United, one of the two could be out the door this summer.
Manchester United’s Opponents
Villarreal finished the La Liga season in the seventh place, four points behind fifth placed Real Sociedad, United easily defeated Sociedad in the round of 32.
A final obviously has a different energy, so anything can happen, Villarreal has some solid players, players that United have been linked to in this upcoming transfer window. But, Villarreal is nothing special and Manchester United should be and are the favorites.
Villarreal defeated a few decent sides to get to the final: RB Salzburg, Dinamo Zagreb, Dynamo Kyiv and Arsenal, no one amazing, but some decent competition with some highly rated players sprinkled in the squads.
Seventh place in La Liga is underachieving for this Villarreal squad on paper, a lot of solid players, Gerard Moreno is their top scorer with 29 goals in all competitions.
Francis Coquelin, Etienne Capoue, Ramiro Funes More and Alberto Moreno all have Premier League experience. Parejo, Trigueros and Albiol are experienced savvy veterans in Spain and Pau Torres has been linked to Manchester United recently.
Carlos Bacca and Paco Alcacer add extra experience in attacking positions as well. Alcacer always has a goal off the bench, at Dortmund he scored a hat-trick off the bench.
Unai Emery’s side underachieved this season in La Liga, but they have a decent side that handled themselves well in the Europa League this season and will offer stern competition to Manchester United in the final tomorrow.
Manchester United’s season hinges on this final, do you go into the summer on a high or a low? That is always the case for a final, the club, the players and the supporters all know that.
This game could be seen as a catalyst if Manchester United use it as a spring board and compete for more prestigious trophies.