United Briefing: Emery will aim for a surprise

Mata has no affiliation with Villarreal but having grown up playing in Spain’s national youth sides and for three different La Liga teams, he’s well-placed to analyse our opponent’s strengths.

“If we talk now about the present, with Unai on the bench, it’s a very well-organised team with quality, with players that I know very well,“ said the 33-year-old. ”It’s difficult to play against his teams.

“I played with some of their players. Raul Albiol, centre-back, we played together in Valencia and the national team, [Dani] Parejo, great midfielder, Paco Alcacer, striker and very good finisher.

“They’ve got a great striker in Gerardo Moreno, they’ve got quality in the midfield, a very good centre-back in Pau Torres. Sergio Asenjo, one of the goalkeepers, was also my team-mate in the Spanish Under-21s. I know them very well, they’ve beaten good teams in this season’s Europa League, like Arsenal.”

Victory for United in Poland would see Juan lift a 10th major trophy of a glittering senior career and a fourth with United. It would also be his third Europa League victory to add to a Champions League he won while a Chelsea player. Mata still describes occasions such as these as ‘gifts’, even though he’s no stranger to a big event.

“It doesn’t matter how many you’ve been lucky enough to play, it always feels like a gift to be in a European final,” he said.


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