In the run-up to the final game of the season, both Villarreal and Manchester United focused on the closing rounds of their respective domestic leagues.
Manchester United finished the 2020-21 Premier League campaign with two wins, a draw and two defeats in their final five games, finishing in second place.
Villarreal, on the other hand, won nine points in the same period, to secure a Europa Conference League spot.
The Yellow Submarines have the chance to end their major trophy drought after several semi-final appearances over the last 15 years. The Red Devils though can win the Europa League again after last winning it in the 2016/17 season.
In fact, Villarreal and Manchester United have met in four previous European matches – on each occasion in the UEFA Champions League group stage – and everyone ended in a goalless draw.
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Unai Emery, who has the chance to win his record-breaking fourth Europa crown, faces some tough decisions. Geronimo Rulli has been solid in goal as he has started all but one game during Villarreal’s European run. The Argentinian has looked short of match practice, however, which could prompt Emery to go with Sergio Asenjo. Emery will ponder a partner for Gerard Moreno up front, and although Paco Alcácer has scored six goals in the competition this term, two-time Europa League winner Carlos Bacca impressed in the team’s last two Liga matches.
As for Ole Gunnar Solskjaer looks for his first silverware as United manager, time is running out for Harry Maguire to prove his fitness after the defender suffered an ankle injury. Solskjær may be forced to play Victor Lindelof and Eric Bailly in central defence. The Norwegian must also decide who to start in goal, although Dean Henderson’s selection against Wolves in the last Premier League game suggests David de Gea will return to the side in Gdansk.
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HERE ARE THE PLAYERS WHO MATTER MOST IN THE EUROPA LEAGUE FINAL -
Gerard Moreno: Spanish international Moreno is in the form of his life, sheer class in his finishing, brimming with confidence.
Raul Albiol: The defender has returned from several years in Serie A ever more competitive, smarter, oozing leadership, brilliant in the air, and looking several years younger than his passport age.
Pau Torres: A 24-year-old centre-back with a wand of a left foot attracting attention from several of Europe’s leading lights.
Bruno Fernandes: His goals and assists – 28 and 18 respectively in 57 appearances this term – speak for themselves, but his leadership qualities are no less important to this United side.
— UEFA Europa League (@EuropaLeague) May 24, 2021
Edinson Cavani: Like a seasoned athlete, the Uruguayan is finishing the season with a blistering kick – averaging well over a goal every 90 minutes since mid-April.
Paul Pogba: The French World Cup-winner has been asked to play varied roles this season with him adapting to most. The midfielder would like to repeat his performance that won Manchester united the title last time.