Former Manchester United midfielder Luke Chadwick has given us his thoughts on the upcoming Europa League final against Villarreal.
The Red Devils take on their Spanish opponents in tomorrow night’s big game in Gdansk, having got past Roma with a convincing semi-final victory, while Villarreal boss Unai Emery masterminded a win over his old club Arsenal.
Chadwick admits it might’ve been more ‘comfortable’ for United to be playing against Arsenal as they know them well from their regular meetings in the Premier League, though one imagines Ole Gunnar Solskjaer might also fancy his chances against them more after their poor form for so much of this season.
Speaking exclusively to CaughtOffside ahead of the big game, Chadwick is also aware of Unai Emery’s fine record in this competition, as well as the threat from in-form front-man Gerard Moreno.
“From what I’ve seen, Gerard Moreno seems to be their talisman, their top player. Obviously Emery has an incredible record in the Europa League,” Chadwick said.
“You’d probably say United are the stronger team on paper … but Villarreal, like many Spanish teams, are very technically proficient and will look to get on the ball for long periods of time, which could play into United’s hands with the pace they’ve got in wide areas so they can hit them on the break.
“It will be an interesting game and United will go in as favourites, but you can’t discount Emery’s incredible record, having beaten his former club Arsenal in the semi-final.
“As a United fan you’d probably be more comfortable playing Arsenal rather than a team who’s a bit more of an unknown in Villarreal. But I fully expect Solskjaer to get his hands on his first piece of silverware to round off what would be a very satisfying season for Man United.”
Chadwick also admitted it feels like this might be a bigger opportunity for Man Utd than when they last won the Europa League in 2016/17 and failed to really build on that success.
The ex-Red Devil is feeling optimistic about the team being put together by his old teammate Solskjaer, and feels that a victory tomorrow night could be the start of something big under the Norwegian tactician.
“It feels a bit different (from 2017),” Chadwick said. “Obviously Jose Mourinho came in, and he almost guarantees trophies, but it wasn’t how you expect a Manchester United team to play.
“With Ole, the football hasn’t always been great but it’s evolving and improving and it’s starting to feel like a team is being put together that can play fast and attacking football, which is what the fans crave and what they were used to under Sir Alex Ferguson.
“It does feel like winning this trophy would be another step on the ladder to getting to where the club wants to be – becoming title contenders and playing for the biggest trophies every season.”
Even if some United fans would rather be playing Arsenal, it’s worth remembering that Emery was the man in charge of the Gunners when they were thrashed 4-1 by Chelsea in the 2019 Europa League final, so there’s always a chance we’ll see that kind of performance from his side, rather than the dominance of his old Sevilla teams that won this competition for three years in a row.
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