THE ROAD TO THE FINAL
United, of course, dropped into the Europa League in February, having been knocked out of the Champions League in the group stages. We beat Villarreal’s compatriots Real Sociedad 4-0 on aggregate, before Paul Pogba’s goal at the San Siro helped us edge past Milan, 2-1. A further four-goal triumph was recorded over Granada in the quarter-finals, before an exciting semi-final tie with Roma ended 8-5 on aggregate, with Edinson Cavani helping himself to four across the two games.
Our opponents have built an impressive 14-match unbeaten run in this season’s competition, with the Spanish side comfortably finishing top of a group containing Sivasspor, Qarabag and Maccabi Tel Aviv. They then won both legs of their round-of-32, round-of-16 and quarter-final ties with RB Salzburg (4-1 on aggregate), Dynamo Kiev (4-0) and Dinamo Zagreb (3-1) respectively, to set up a semi-final with manager Emery’s former club Arsenal. Goals from Manu Trigueros and Raul Albiol secured a slender 2-1 advantage to take to north London, and a scoreless draw at the Emirates a week later ensured a first major European final in the club’s history.
United and Villarreal have met four times previously, facing off in the group stages of the Champions League in 2005/06 and 2008/09. Remarkably, all four clashes with the Yellow Submarine ended goalless – let’s hope for a little more entertainment on Wednesday!