United are on the hunt for their first silverware since lifting this trophy in 2017 under Jose Mourinho, when they beat Ajax 2-0 in Stockholm, but the Spanish squad will not be a snap. Although this is their very first European final, they have a coach at Unai Emery who has won the Europa League three times, and they have passed Arsenal to reach the centerpiece in Gdansk.
So what can United expect from the team dubbed ‘The Yellow Submarine’? What are their strengths and weaknesses? And what is Villarreal’s opinion on United’s form under Ole Gunnar Solskjaer this season?
MEN Sport spoke to a football journalist and Villarreal supporter Jamie Kemble on the Spanish side and how the final could go on Wednesday night:
1. How did Villarreal react to reach the final?
“Reaching the final is historic for Villarreal. It is the first big European final in the history of the club, and while the club have come so far since the day. [owner] Fernando Roig bought the club in 1997, he still felt like a long wait after being on the outskirts on several occasions – reaching the Champions League semi-final and losing four times in the Europa League semi-finals.
“This is considered the biggest game in club history, and the club has prepared for it as such. From a fan perspective, United are considered favorites, as you would expect, but there is certainly a belief that this side is good enough to make even more history going and winning the whole thing. ”
2. What does Villarreal think of United under Solskjaer?
“As with any club abroad, United haven’t been particularly concerned about Villarreal so far. Having said that, I think there is a great appreciation for the talent of the United squad and the scale of the task ahead. of course, a compliment in itself.
“And the Yellows will be well aware of the two La Liga teams United have already eliminated. Although, of course, a 90 minute single tie is very different from a two-legged tie and it breeds belief. “
3. Who are the main dangerous men of Villarreal?
“There is no doubt that Gerard Moreno is the one to watch. He has scored 40 goals in 45 games in all competitions, including 23 goals in La Liga and six more in the Europa League. He is without a doubt one of the most talented strikers in Europe. and he’s full of confidence, United can’t afford to give him chances like the ones they often left in the absence of Maguire.
“Apart from Moreno, there is a lot of talent elsewhere. Paco Alcacer is a very talented player, but he can be inconsistent, so you never really know if you are going to defend an unstoppable leader or someone who will have no impact. on the game. Samu Chukwueze is a big defeat – it doesn’t look like he will come back from an injury. United know all about Pau Torres, who is a world-class center-back, and he’s paired with an experienced header in Raul Albiol. ”
4. What are their main strengths and weaknesses under Emery?
“In truth, this question probably has different answers for La Liga and the Europa League, but Emery came with the mandate to fight to win the Europa League, so it wasn’t really surprising that La Liga’s form suffered as a result.
“The problem in La Liga has been drawing too many games, so by definition Villarreal has been largely difficult to beat this season. If I pick one weakness that could hold us back in the final, it’s probably that this team doesn’t. You don’t always trust yourself to commit to attacking, but even then, against United, I’d rather have a good defense knowing that we have a striker who can grab a goal with less than half a chance.
“In terms of strengths, Villarreal has a better record than any other team in this competition this season, and that has been achieved by being very organized. With a strong center-back duo, this team is strong defensive – see the Arsenal game as an example. The Gunners wouldn’t have scored over two innings without a terrible penalty decision. Above all, you would have to point to Emery as the main force. In this competition, are there other managers that you prefer to have in your canoe? ”
5. What is your prediction for the final?
“This is such a difficult question to follow. Villarreal is undoubtedly strong enough to compete with United, and Emery, I believe, is a stronger coach than his counterpart before Wednesday. Of course United are favorites, and over two innings, I’d be confident in saying that Villarreal would likely fall short.
“Over 90 minutes, I just don’t have that feeling. I think it’s going to be tight, like a lot of finals, and it could come down to a moment of magic in what could be an otherwise insignificant game. The question is whether this moment comes from Moreno, [Edinson] Cavani or [Bruno] Fernandes. If you press me for a score prediction I say 1-1 and penalties. ”