Manchester United vs. Villarreal: Europa League Final odds and preview
The second-tier European competition will be decided Wednesday, when Spanish side Villarreal takes on English powerhouse Manchester United in the Europa League final in Gdansk, Poland.
The Red Devils are favored to win, in what many expect to be a low-scoring affair.
Wed, May 26 2021, 7:00 PM
Villarreal looks to continue Spain’s Europa dominance
The Yellow Submarine has been extremely impressive in this season’s competition, with 11 wins in 14 matches and a trio of draws, including a 0-0 stalemate with Arsenal to secure its place in the final.
Villarreal manager Unai Emery is very familiar with what it takes to win the competition. He won it three years in a row, from 2014 to 2016, when he managed Sevilla, then took Arsenal to the final in 2019.
However, Villareal's form of late has been hit or miss. The club is 4-4 in its last eight matches, with 14 goals and 11 conceded. In four of the last six matches, Villarreal has registered an xG (expected goals) of less than one, and against Madrid over the weekend, the club wasted numerous chances in a 2-1 defeat.
Villarreal has done a great job to capitalize on mistakes during its run, as it did against Arsenal in a 2-1 first-leg victory. It will hope to do the same against a United side missing captain centerback Harry Maguire.
Spanish clubs have won six of the last nine Europa League finals, with the other three to Premier League sides. Sevilla has been responsible for four, and Atletico Madrid claimed the other two, and now Villarreal will hope to add to that dominant stretch by lifting the first official trophy in the club’s history.
This is Villarreal's only path back into the Europa League next season, because it finished outside the European spots. If they are to do so, look for Gerard Moreno to come off the right side and get an important goal.
Manchester United seeks first trophy in four years
Manchester United survived a brutal stretch of the season that saw it play four matches in eight days, and the club won just two of its final six matches. However, every starter rested over the weekend, in a 2-1 win over Wolves, and they will hope to revert to the form that saw them win six of seven matches prior to their condensed schedule.
United was not just winning but winning handily, with five of those six victories coming by two scores or more. The Red Devils also were coming from behind, as they shown a tendency the past few months of falling behind in the first half. With Maguire out, they will need avoid a deficit in the first half against a Villarreal side that can be hard to break down when it has a lead.
The firepower at Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s disposal is imposing, with Marcus Rashford, Edinson Cavani, and Mason Greenwood set to lead the front line. The question will be how United is set up — if he starts all three or if he drops one to the bench and opts for a diamond in the midfield, with Bruno Fernandes sitting behind.
No matter what, it is difficult to see United keeping a clean sheet in the match, a feat it has failed to accomplish in the last seven matches.
Manchester United vs. Villarreal trends
Manchester United has conceded at least one goal in each of its last seven matches. The Red Devils have scored at least one goal in 17 of their last 18 outings in all competitions. They have won five of their last seven cup finals in Europe, with their two defeats to Barcelona.
Villarreal has kept a clean sheet in four of their last six matches in all competitions. There has also been at least one player sent off in four of its last eight matches.
In the last nine matchups in a European final between Spanish and English sides, the La Liga squads have taken home the hardware each time.
The last four meetings between these two clubs have ended in scoreless draws. I do not see that trend continuing Wednesday, with the defensive issues United has, combined with the attacking prowess at its disposal.
The last time Manchester United played in a European final on May 26 was in 1999, when it faced Bayern Munich in the Champions League final. On that night, Solskjaer became a legend, when he scored a last-gasp winner to complete an unbelievable stoppage-time comeback.
This time around, he will lift his first trophy as manager of United, as the Red Devils will do just enough to bring home their first silverware in four years.