Manchester United Ready For ‘Season Defining’ Europa League Final
Manchester United have touched down in Gdansk ahead of what manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has called a ‘Season Defining’ Europa League final against Villareal.
Whilst his team have made progress under his stewardship, finishing second in the Premier League behind Manchester City, you don’t receive silverware for simply being a bit better than before, and runners up are quickly forgotten.
Trophies define careers and create legacies, Solskjaer knows that from his playing days at the club, and he knows he needs to bag his first winner’s medal as the manager to show that he belongs in the hot seat.
"You go into every game as the next one is the most important one. This now is a final that happens to be at the end of a season.
"You can define the season after tomorrow. So far we've improved but we'll only all go home happy if we win."
For United, the last time the team tasted success was way back in 2017, in this same competition but under Jose Mourinho. While the club hasn’t won the league since Sir Alex Ferguson retired and failed to capitalise on their 2017 success, Solskjaer is hoping a win will act as a springboard this time around.
"I think players, when they get the taste of success, when they win trophies, win something, it can go two ways; we've done it now and we can relax or, as I've had a few times, it just gives you more of that feeling."
“You want more, you want it all the time, you want the feeling again with your teammates, with your club.
"This group of players has been working hard for a year, a year-and-a-half, together and it's the next step for them now to go and enjoy a game like this," said Solskjaer.
While United go into the final as heavy favourites against a Villareal side who finished seventh in La Liga, winning just six of their past 12 games in all competitions, they will be facing off against Europa League specialist Unai Emery.
Emery guided Sevilla to three Europa League victories, and managed to steer an unfancied Arsenal team to the final in 2019. He is now looking to make history with Villareal.
"One of the aims of Villarreal was to break down barriers. We've broken the barrier of the semifinal in Europe and we feel proud of the work we have done," Emery said in a news conference. "We now have a responsibility to take a step forward. We need to enjoy this final and think about winning. We deserve to be in the final and to give our players the best tools possible to perform well in this final."
"All finals are different. The past four finals I've been a part of, I've had some where my team was favourite but that was before the game. When the game starts, there are situations that can change the course of the game. We are eager, enthusiastic.”
"I feel a duty and obligation towards Villarreal. I want to defend this project and everyone that has worked throughout the years to build a big football project in a village. I have nothing to avenge. I'm very proud to have reached this final with Villarreal."
It’s 30 years since Manchester United beat a star-studded Barcelona team in the Cup Winner’s Cup final in Rotterdam to spark a dynasty that lasted almost three decades, can they relight the flame tomorrow in Poland?