Date: 26th May 2021 at 1:48pm
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Manchester United go into the Europa League final against Villarreal on Wednesday evening hoping to secure the club’s first silverware since winning the same competition back in 2017. 

That triumph, delivered by then manager Jose Mourinho, was also the last time the club reached a major cup final, with the Red Devils having been beaten at the semi-final stage of four different competitions in the time since.

United boss Ole Gunnar Solskjaer will likely be relying on talisman Bruno Fernandes to perform if his side are going to return from Gdansk victorious.

The Portuguese midfielder has been in imperious form for United this season, scoring 28 goals and contributing a further 17 assists across all competitions.

United are considered firm favourites by many ahead of the tie, with Villarreal finishing seventh in La Liga this term after patchy form towards the end of the season.

However, United will have to be wary of the threat posed by their opponents, especially forward Gerard Moreno.

The Spaniard has scored a remarkable 29 goals in just 45 games in all competitions this term, and has directly contributed to 10 goals in 11 Europa League games on his side’s run to the final.

The 29-year-old was crucial in Villarreal navigating their way past Arsenal in the semis, with the striker setting up teammate Raul Albion for what eventually proved to be the tie’s deciding goal in the first leg.

United’s task of dealing with Moreno has been made even more difficult by the news that captain Harry Maguire will miss the final.

The England defender has missed United’s last four league games after sustaining an ankle injury against Aston Villa at the start of May and, despite being included in Gareth Southgate’s provisional squad for the Euros this summer, is facing a race to get fit for the long awaited tournament.

Emery masterminded three consecutive Europa League triumphs with Sevilla and will be hoping to secure a fourth title.

Moreno, who can play anywhere across a front three but is usually deployed as a centre forward, will therefore look to hurt United’s fragile defence, who have looked particularly shaky in Maguire’s absence.

United have conceded eight times in the four games Maguire has missed, having kept five clean sheets in the eight games prior to that.

Moreno’s form has also been particularly good away from the club’s Estadio de la Ceramica, with the Spaniard netting 14 times on their travels this season, including a hat trick against Granada in April.

With Villarreal boss Emery having won the competition three times in a row wit former side Sevilla, United will be well aware of the threat posed by their opponents and the pedigree of Solskjaer’s opposite number.

 
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