Europa League Semi-Final Recap: Manchester United and Villarreal Reach the Final
It will be the first final under the stewardship of Ole Gunnar Solskjaer for Manchester United in this season’s Europa League, as the Red Devils eased through their semi-final clash with AS Roma. Villarreal will lie in wait for the side from Old Trafford, as they held off Arsenal to reach their first-ever European final under former Gunners boss Unai Emery.
United Ease Past AS Roma
Manchester United headed to Rome with one foot already in the Europa League final. The Red Devils were excellent in last week’s first leg, as they claimed a commanding 6-2 victory at Old Trafford. Edinson Cavani and Bruno Fernandes both scored two apiece last week, while Paul Pogba and Mason Greenwood also found the back of the net.
Roma were aware of how unlikely their chances were ahead of the second leg, as a victory by four clear goals would have been enough. However, the chances of that happening at the Stadio Olimpico were dented in the opening 40 minutes, as Cavani smashed home the opening goal of the game.
David De Gea was arguably United’s best player on the night, as he made a string of excellent saves to deny the Italian side a way back into the contest. However, a crazy 15 minutes at the start of the second half offered a glimmer of hope. Edin Dzeko scored the first for the Italians, before Bryan Cristante rattled in an excellent effort to strike fear into United.
However, those worries were eased just eight minutes later as an excellent Bruno Fernandes cross was headed home by Cavani. An Alex Telles own goal in the last ten minutes gave Roma the win on the night, but Solskjaer can prepare the Red Devils for their second-ever Europa League final after an 8-5 aggregate victory.
Villarreal Hold Toothless Arsenal
Arsenal went into their second leg back at the Emirates with a clear passage through to the final. Nicolas Pepe’s penalty in the closing stages in Spain was believed to be the turning point of the tie, and many expected the Gunners to score the goal they needed to progress back in London.
However, the Gunners were poor from start to finish, with Mikel Arteta certainly having to take his fair share of the blame. Arteta was far too cautious in the opening half of the game, while Villarreal were never stretched. Pierre Emerick Aubameyang did strike the post on two occasions, but this wasn’t a tale of the Gunners being unlikely, because quite simply, they weren’t good enough to reach the final. Defeat also means that Arsenal will not be playing European football next season for the first time in 25 seasons.
The draw means that Villarreal will crash the English European party, as they will be the sole non-Premier League side in either the Champions League or Europa League final. Unai Emery would have been among the happiest at the Emirates last night, as he was able to get his revenge on the club that fired him just over a year and a half ago.
It will be a historic night on the 26th May at the Stadion Miejski in Gdansk, as it will be the first time that Villarreal competes in a European final in their history.