Manchester United are now very close to lifting a title, a trophy that will mark their overall development under Ole Gunnar Solskjaer. Since becoming the manager in 2018, silverware is something that the Norwegian manager has failed to deliver. That could change very soon.
The Europa League final on May 26 in Gdansk will be the big chance for Solskjaer’s side. But in Villarreal, they have very game opposition.
Under Unai Emery, Villarreal have shown big signs of progress, especially in Europe. In fact, they have not lost a single game in the Europa League this season. That is quite impressive to say the least.
The same cannot be said about Manchester United, who did lose the second leg of their semi-final tie against AS Roma. Thus, it is expected to be a tight game between two very good sides.
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What can Manchester United expect vs Villarreal?
Emery, as per FBref.com, has mainly utilized two formations through the course of the season in 4-3-3 and 4-4-2, with the former being used against the teams who sit deep and allow opponents to come at them and the latter being put into action against the teams who play possession-based football.
It is the 4-4-2 formation that Emery has opted to field for most of the games recently. Usually, the back four consists of Raul Albiol and Pau Torres in the heart of their defence with two high-flying offensive full-backs in Alfonso Pedraza, Pervis Estupiñán or Alberto Moreno at left-back and club captain Mario Gaspar or Rubén Peña at the right-back spot.
They keep it very tight at the back, denying any space for the opposing players to penetrate. While the defence is set up to make things difficult for the opposition attackers, the midfield pivot of Dani Parejo and Étienne Capoue does all the hard work in the middle of the park. Their main job is to shield the defence as well as finding offensive runners from deep with their long-range passing.
The wide midfielders are Manu Trigueros and Samuel Chukwueze. A Villarreal academy graduate, Chukwueze could be the bigger attacking threat of the two for Manchester United.
While Trigueros likes to tuck infield and increase bodies in midfield regularly, Chukwueze provides the width down the right for the Yellow Submarine and can catch defenders on the break with his pace. However, the 22-year-old appears to be a doubt for the final. He was not a part of the squad against Real Madrid on Saturday. In that case, Yeremy is expected take his place.
Gerard Moreno and Paco Alcácer could be leading the line for Villarreal in the final. Moreno has been sensational this season and has scored 29 goals and provided 11 assists across all competitions according to stats from Transfermarkt. Carlos Bacca could provide an option as well and he is a man in form after scoring a hattrick against Sevilla.
Being a final, the start could be very measured from both teams. Yet, as we all know there will be 9,500 supporters in the stadium on the night, which could make things very interesting.
Villarreal are expected to be very firm defensively and very sharp offensively. The Red Devils could enjoy a large portion of possession against a side that will be looking to breach their defence through counter-attacks and quick transitions.
It is worth mentioning that Manchester United have faced Villarreal four times in UEFA competition before, all in the Champions League, and every game ended in a 0-0 draw. But on Wednesday, something must give as the new Europa League champions will be crowned.