Manchester United will cap off the 2020-21 season with a major trophy celebration — the club’s first in 48 months — if only they can beat Villarreal in the UEFA Europa League final on Wednesday (start time, 3 pm ET) at the Municipal Stadium in Gdansk, Poland.
[ MORE: 2020-21 Premier League team grades ]
Despite finishing 2nd in the Premier League — undeniable improvement and progress in the post-Sir Alex Ferguson era — the current major trophy drought at Old Trafford (2017 Europa League) is the longest endured by Manchester United fans since four trophy-less seasons from 1986 to 1990. Ole Gunnar Solskjaer delivered the Red Devils back to respectability, comfortable UEFA Champions League qualification and even a brief flirtation with Premier League title contention, but his current haul of zero managerial triumphs is nine trophies short of what he won in 11 seasons as a Manchester United player. The expectation to lift a piece of silverware is immense, but Solskjaer is uniquely qualified to understand that pressure and, perhaps on Wednesday, thrive under it.
As for Villarreal, Unai Emery, who took over last summer after the club finished 5th in La Liga, has done in his first season what he does best: guide Spanish clubs to the business end of the Europa League. Emery, of course, won back-to-back-to-back Europa League titles with Sevilla from 2014 to 2017. It was that achievement which, in part, landed him the Arsenal job following Arsene Wenger’s departure in 2018. This season, a 7th-place finish was only good enough for Europa Conference League qualification, though a win on Wednesday would boost Villarreal into next season’s Champions League instead. Gerardo Moreno, who bagged 23 goals in La Liga (plus another 6 in the Europa League), will be the main threat with which Manchester United’s center back duo — perhaps without injured captain Harry Maguire — must contend.
[ MORE: NBC Sports Premier League season review ]
Here’s everything you need to know ahead of Manchester United – Villarreal, including how to watch on TV in the USA and how to follow all of the action live.
How to watch, stream Europa League: Manchester United – Villarreal
Live updates: Full time in normal time, Villarreal 1-1 Manchester United (extra time in-play)
🏹 El Matador doing what he does best!
— Joe Prince-Wright (@JPW_NBCSports) May 26, 2021
IT HAD TO BE GERARD MORENO 💥
That ball though 💫 pic.twitter.com/KTLQoOLokF
— Champions League on CBS Sports (@UCLonCBSSports) May 26, 2021
Team news: Manchester United – Villarreal
Manchester United: OUT: Anthony Martial (knee), Phil Jones (knee)
The latest injury update on Harry Maguire isn’t great, as Solskjaer said he ‘will jog up and down a bit’ during their pre-game training session in Gdansk. Maguire was spotted on the sidelines at training, and took no part. He is, however, on the bench. So too is Fred after his recent injury, but Anthony Martial isn’t fit to be in the squad.
David de Gea starts in goal once again, with Eric Bailly coming in to replace Maguire as the Ivory Coast defender will be playing against his former club. Edinson Cavani, Marcus Rashford and Mason Greenwood all start in attack, while Scott McTominay and Paul Pogba appear to be the midfield two, unless Solskjaer is playing a midfield diamond.
🔴 𝐓𝐄𝐀𝐌 𝐍𝐄𝐖𝐒 🔴
— Manchester United (@ManUtd) May 26, 2021
Villarreal: OUT: Samuel Chukwueze (hamstring), Vicente Iborra (knee)
Here's how the Yellows will line up in Gdansk for the historic game.
— Villarreal CF English (@Eng_Villarreal) May 26, 2021
Odds and ends: Manchester United – Villarreal – Provided by our partner PointsBet
Manchester United (-120) | Villarreal (+360) | Draw (+245)
Prediction: Manchester United – Villarreal
Simply put, it’s Manchester United’s final to lose, though Villarreal’s defensive record in the knockout rounds (3 goals conceded in 8 games) is exemplary and could prove difficult to overcome. Having traversed the more difficult path to the final (Real Sociedad, AC Milan, Granada and Roma) compared to that of Villarreal (Red Bull Salzburg, Dynamo Kyiv, Dinamo Zagreb and Arsenal), the Red Devils have proven themselves worthy winners pending one more top performance. Manchester United 2-0 Villarreal.