Four years after United’s last Europa League triumph in Sweden, Manchester United have repeated the feat reaching the Europa League final after losing 3-2 on the night but winning 8-5 on aggregate. United will play Unai Emery’s Villarreal side in the final.
It wasn’t plain sailing for the United side, after a good first half in which Edinson Cavani gave United the lead on the night.
Roma scored twice in the second half, first through Edin Dzeko after a free header in the 6-yard box. Roma went 2-1 up through Bryan Cristante after a brilliant half volley which nestled into the far corner of David De Gea’s net.
United responded when a delicious cross from the left-hand side from Bruno Fernandes found Edinson Cavani in acres of space and onside, the Uruguayan headed in brilliantly.
Roma retook the lead through a deflected shot from Nicola Zalewski after Alex Telles was caught out on the far post. The substitutions at half time by Solskjaer in Telles and Brandon Williams seemed to struggle to deal with the crosses to the back post.
United advanced to their first cup final since a 1-0 defeat to Antonio Conte’s Chelsea side in the FA Cup final in 2018. The Europa League final in Gdansk will be the best opportunity for manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer to get his hands on his first trophy, which I’m sure will delight the fans who stood by the Norwegian. Tonight was the fruits of their labour as a squad, who have remained resolute in backing the Norwegian.
United rested a few of their first-team players for the second leg at the Stadio Olimpico. Marcus Rashford, Victor Lindelof and Scott Mctominay were all rested.
The decision to play Fernandes, Shaw and Cavani was a talking point before kick-off but Solskjaer wanted to make sure the game was safe without experimenting too much.
Donny Van de Beek surprise inclusion
There was a surprise start for Dutch maestro Donny Van De Beek, who made his first start for the Old Trafford club since his 63-minute crescendo against Leicester City in the FA Cup. The Dutch midfielder completed 81% of his 43 attempted passes in the game.
He had 52 touches of the ball and completed one key pass during the 90 minutes of the game. Van de Beek only won 28% of his ground duels in which he competed for seven of them.
He also lost the ball seven times. Van de Beek hasn’t featured much this season, he has featured in 16 Premier League games, but has just 340 minutes of Premier League football under his belt. Which is about four full 90-minute games.
The Dutchman has been a peripheral figure under Ole Gunnar Solskjaer since his £40 million move from Ajax in the summer. It hasn’t been easy for the Dutch midfielder, who has been limited to substitute appearances and when he has been given game time, he has struggled to make an impact.
This is due to him being fit but not match fit, he struggles to match the pace of Premier League games, and indeed games under Ole Gunnar Solskjaer. With the Norwegian's high pressing quick counter-attacking footballing philosophy.
Edinson Cavani proves once again why he’s the best in class
The Uruguayan completed a supreme attacking performance with a fine headed goal to make it 2-2 on the night and 8-4 to United on aggregate. A fantastic in-swinging cross from Bruno Fernandes found Cavani free in the penalty box who headed past Mirante in the Roma goal and put the tie to bed.
The Uruguayan has been an instant success, the signing was likened to that of Colombian forward Radamel Falcao, but the impact of the forward could not have been more different compared to Cavani. Once fans return for the last home game of the season against Fulham, the now-iconic Edinson Cavani chant will surely be ringing around Old Trafford for the first time, he will be an instant cult hero.
The contract issue remains with Cavani, although there have been positive signs recently that an agreement can be reached with the BBC claiming that it is close to being signed. If Cavani were to stay it would lessen United’s need for a striker of the calibre of Erling Haaland and Harry Kane.
Instead focusing the eyes of the decision-makers on the right-hand side of the attack and the defensive midfield position which is in desperate need of strengthening.