Manchester United successfully went past Granada, with a 4-0 aggregate win in their quarter-final tie of the UEFA Europa League. The Red Devils will now meet AS Roma in the semi-final of the competition. Over the two legs, it will be decided which team will go to Gdańsk for the final.
It will be Manchester United who host AS Roma in the first leg of the tie on April 29, while the Serie A giants will welcome Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s side to the Stadio Olimpico on May 6 for the second leg of what promises to be a mouth-watering tie for the fans of both clubs as well as for the neutrals.
As far as the history between these two clubs is concerned, Manchester United have held the upper hand. The two sides met six times in the Champions League across 2007 and 2008, including a 7-1 victory for the Red Devils at Old Trafford, as reported by the club’s official website.
However, both teams last faced each other in Europe back in 2008, more than a decade ago. And much has changed since then. So, how could the upcoming tie go down between the two sides?
What can Manchester United expect from AS Roma?
Considered by many as one of the most underrated coaches in this modern era, Paulo Fonseca became the manager of AS Roma in 2019, after having won the league and cup double three times in a row with Shakhtar Donetsk.
After a few experiments and tactical tweaks, he put the 3-4-3 (or a modified 3-4-2-1) into effect. With that, he started to taste success and got a very pleasing 3-1 victory on the final day of the Serie A 2019-20 campaign against Juventus.
The 3-4-3 has become their go-to formation. Pau López is their first-choice goalkeeper. Gianluca Mancini, recently linked with a summer move to Manchester United, is on the right-side of the three at the back, while Ibañez covers the left side. Bryan Cristante, previously a deep-lying midfielder for Atalanta, plays the same role of creating chances but from a different position, being in the middle of the back three for Roma.
They play two central midfielders, mostly Jordan Veretout and more defensive-minded Amadou Diawara, and two wide midfielders or full-backs in Leonardo Spinazzola (on the left) and Rick Karsdorp or Bruno Peres (on the right), who provide the width down both the flanks.
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The use of a target man – sometimes Edin Dzeko and more often than not Borja Mayoral – is seen, with the burden of creating chances lying on the shoulders of the two trequartisti (which is the plural of trequartista, a role between the central midfielders and strikers) in Pedro or Henrikh Mkhitaryan on one side and Lorenzo Pellegrini or Stephan El Shaarawy on the other.
They usually like to keep it tight at the back, preventing the opposing creative players from carving out clear-cut goalscoring opportunities. Despite being incredibly fast in transition and positional play, Roma don’t involve themselves in counter-pressing that much, with the man-oriented pressing to cut out the passing lanes and progress of the ball being their primary mode of retaining possession.
Manchester United fans should be confident going into the semi-final, especially owing to the fact that it is a two-legged knock-out tie. The Red Devils will now have two chances on their hands to get past the hurdle they have found very difficult under Ole Gunnar Solskjaer so far.
Furthermore, even though Roma possess a lethal goalscoring threat in the form of Edin Džeko, now 35, he does not have the kind of pace that the likes of Harry Maguire and Victor Lindelof would find difficult to cope with.
Other than Lorenzo Pellegrini, the creative midfielders that AS Roma have do not possess a lot of pace either, but they could be effective through their link-up plays. Nonetheless, United should be more concerned about breaching Fonseca’s defence rather than protecting their own.
In all, it should be an exciting clash, given two of the most prestigious teams in European football will face each other after a long time.