Villarreal are aiming to upset the favourites in their first major final whereas Manchester United are looking to win their first trophy under Ole Gunnar Solskjaer.
In an high-octane clash, Villarreal will face Manchester United in the Europa League final on May 26 at Gdansk. Apart from the Yellow Submarines all other teams in this seasons Europa/ Champions League finals are from English Premier League. In the second final of the week Manchester City will take on Chelsea at Porto on May 29 for the Champions League title. The Red Devils and the Spanish side have faced each other four times previously and all those encounters ended in a goalless draw.
Villarreal are undefeated in this season’s Europa League having won 10 of their 13 games in the competition and scoring 27 goals en route to final. Unai Emery’s side beat his former team Arsenal 2-1 (aggregate) in the semi-finals to reach their first final in a major competition. It was a sweet revenge as Arsenal had defeated Villarreal in the 2006 Champions League semi-finals. Emery is aiming to become the first coach to win four UEFA Cup or Europa League titles. He won three consecutive Europa League titles with Sevilla between 2016-18.
Gerard Moreno is the main man up front for the Spanish side. The 29-year-old striker has scored six goals and provided 3 assists in the competition so far, two behind the leading goal scorer Harry Kane. Emery’s biggest doubt would be, whom to play alongside Moreno, Carlos Bacca or Paco Alcacer. Alcacer has also scored six goals in the competition so far and Bacca scored a hat-trick against Sevilla ten days ago.
Capoue and Parejo will dictate the play from the midfield and Triogueros and Gomez will most likely occupy the wings. Defender Raul Albiol, who’s goal against Arsenal proved to be the winner will cover goalkeeper Ruli along with Pau Torres.
Manchester United are in their first European final since winning Europa League under Jose Mourinho in 2017. Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, who replaced Mourinho at Old Trafford in 2018, will be hoping to win his first trophy as Manchester United manager. The 48-year-old Norwegian scored the winner when Manchester United came from behind to beat Bayern Munich 2-1 in the famous 1999 Champions League final at Camp Nou.
Manchester United thrashed AS Roma 8-5 in the two-legged semi-final to book the ticket to Gdansk. Edinson Cavani was the star performer in the semi-finals. The 34-year-old Uruguayan netted four times to take them through. He is their top scorer in the competition with 5 goals alongside Bruno Fernandes who has also scored 5 goals.
The Portuguese midfielder has also registered four assists to his name. Solskjaer will depend on their combination up front to break the Villarreal defence. Marcus Rashford is likely to start at the wings while they also have in form youngster Mason Greenwood if needed. Central defender Harry Maguire is unlikely to feature because of an ankle injury. Goalkeeper David de Gea who has performed well of late is expected to occupy the goal.
Villarreal are coming into the match on the back of a 2-1 loss against Real Madrid in the La Liga final day to finish seventh in the points table. Therefore they can qualify for next season’s Champions League only by winning the Europa League. On the other hand, Manchester United secured the second spot in the Premier League and thereby qualified for next season’s Champions League.
The Red Devils are certainly the bigger team on the paper but the Spanish outfit always has a history of punching above their weight. Meanwhile, Unai Emery’s experience of winning trophies might prove to be handy in the final.