The United club captain has travelled to Gdansk as part of the 26-man squad for Wednesday’s match against Villarreal, for which the final round of preparations took place on Tuesday evening.
Manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer had initially been upbeat about Maguire returning to skipper the side in the final, only for that positivity to wane last week despite the defender coming off his crutches.
“Harry is just going to jog up and down the sideline, I reckon,” the United boss said in his pre-match press conference. “He’ll probably try to join in (training) a little, but apart from that we’re looking quite good.”
Yet within an hour, it was clear that Maguire would be taking no part in Tuesday’s session.
The defender, who was named in England’s provisional 33-man squad for the European Championships earlier in the day, headed to the dugout rather than the pitch as his team-mates started training. Solskjaer went over to him 15 minutes into the session, before the United boss returned to the main group as a forlorn Maguire watched on.
Solskjaer had previously confirmed he will wait until the day of the final to make a decision on whether the 28-year-old can be involved or not.
Axel Tuanzebe, Eric Bailly and Victor Lindelof have competed for the two centre-back spots in recent games in Maguire’s absence and all travel to Poland in the hope of being selected.
Meanwhile, Anthony Martial and Phil Jones did not travel with the squad due to injury, with Solskjaer facing some big selection decisions, including whether to start David de Gea or Dean Henderson in goal.
Team news: Martial misses out
Anthony Martial appeared as a substitute during the 2017 Europa League final victory in Stockholm but will not be involved this time around.
The forward has been absent for two months due to a knee injury sustained with France during the March international break and, despite returning to training over recent weeks, he is deemed to be not yet ready for first-team action.
“It’s always difficult to leave players out but a final is a reward for what you’ve done over the whole season,” he said.
“Then, if there’s a doubt between a couple of players it comes down to the form in the latter stages. We’ll enjoy the last training session and the players will get the team tomorrow.”
Man Utd’s Europa League final squad
Goalkeepers: David de Gea, Dean Henderson, Lee Grant, Nathan Bishop
Defenders: Eric Bailly, Victor Lindelof, Harry Maguire, Luke Shaw, Alex Telles, Axel Tuanzebe, Aaron Wan-Bissaka, Brandon Williams
Midfielders: Amad Diallo, Bruno Fernandes, Fred, Daniel James, Juan Mata, Nemanja Matic, Scott McTominay, Paul Pogba, Donny van de Beek
Forwards: Edinson Cavani, Anthony Elanga, Mason Greenwood, Marcus Rashford, Shola Shoretire.
Victory for Manchester United in the Europa League final could be the launchpad of a successful era for the club, according to Solskjaer.
Success on Wednesday against Unai Emery’s La Liga side would secure the first major trophy of Solskjaer’s reign and he hopes it can prove to be a catalyst for bigger things at Old Trafford.
“We have five wins in Europe,” the Norwegian said. “We’ve lost twice to Barcelona.
“These are big nights for us. It might be the stepping stone for something better to come, a bright future because this team is a young team.
“It’s a team that we’ve rebuilt over the last couple of years, so hopefully this is the start of something more.”
Why May 26 is special for Man Utd
Solskjaer is looking to lead United to glory 22 years to the day since he completed the treble by scoring a last-gasp winner against Bayern Munich in the Champions League final.
Sir Alex Ferguson was in the hotseat that night and travelled with the squad to Poland, while May 26 is also the birthday of the late Sir Matt Busby.
“We have five wins in Europe, we’ve lost twice to Barcelona,” Solskjaer said. “These are big nights for us. It might be the stepping stone for something better to come, a bright future because this team is a young team.
“It’s a team that we’ve rebuilt over the last couple of years, so hopefully this is the start of something more.
“Of course Sir Alex is with us, we know the 26th of May is Sir Matt’s birthday. But the players when they sign for Man United, they sign to win trophies.
“They accept the challenge of being the best because this is the best club in the world, so that’s the pleasure of the pressure of Man United.
“That’s something they are ready for because they wouldn’t have signed here if they weren’t top players.”
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On his own special contribution to United’s history on May 26, Solskjaer added: “I don’t even think about that. I’m always looking forward and thinking about the next decision, making the right decision for the club.
“I never think about my CV, never. I think about making sure the players are ready. If you have to make decisions tomorrow, then you do it.
“I’ll speak to the subs and tell them they might have to play a big part. Players can be disappointed, they can be angry with me but they should enjoy it because you don’t play too many finals in your life.”
Gary Neville Podcast: Final an important moment in United history
Sky Sports’ Gary Neville on the latest Gary Neville Podcast:
“If Man Utd can win on Wednesday, this has been a really good season for Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, it would demonstrate great progress.
“Then you are talking about recruitment – you are talking about Varane, Kane, Haaland, Sancho. Those players that you know can take them to that next level. There would be numbers in those attacking areas which means they would become more exceptional in front of goal.
“Then a player at the back that would give that partnership alongside Maguire that you could see being there for three or four years and would really challenge and put United at the forefront of challenging City and Liverpool.
“But Solskjaer is going to have to something exceptional because Tuchel, Guardiola and Klopp are exceptional winning managers and they are hungry and ruthless. They want to win relentlessly so Man Utd cannot think that, if they win the Europa League on Wednesday and finish in second, that they still do not need that jump up a level. They are still 12 points behind City, you have got to swing that four games and it does not happen easily.
“So United have got to do big things this summer and Wednesday is such an important moment in the club’s history for Solskjaer and these players to get a medal around their necks.”
Bruno Fernandes says being compared with former Manchester United forward Eric Cantona provides added motivation and constitutes a “good pressure”.
The Portugal international has played an integral part in United’s run to the Europa League final and their second-placed finish in the Premier League this season, which is their third top-three position in as many years.
Cantona is one of the Premier League’s most iconic figures and is often remembered for his enigmatic character and enthralling displays in a United shirt. The forward arrived at Old Trafford in 1992 and played an influential role in Sir Alex Ferguson’s team, winning four Premier League titles and two FA Cups before his departure in 1997.
Fernandes and Cantona met for the first time recently and comparisons have been drawn between the pair’s exciting attacking abilities. Ahead of United’s clash with Villarreal in Gdansk, Poland, on Wednesday, in which Fernandes could win his first major honour for the club, the attacking midfielder admits he is flattered to hear that people have identified similarities between him and Cantona.
Fernandes, who has scored 28 goals and registered 17 assists across 57 matches in all competitions this season, told Sky Sports News: “I just said it was a pleasure to meet him. It is normal. People compare players every day. It doesn’t matter who the player is or when they were in the past. People like to compare and make that comparison.
“Honestly, it is a tough one because the impact he had was really high. He won many major trophies with the club. He won many things.
“For me personally, of course it is an honour to be compared with him but I just try to be myself. It is really good to be compared with him but when you are compared with this kind of big player it is, for me, a good pressure. It means I need to be better every day. To be compared with him makes me work harder to be better and to keep, in the mind of the people, to compare me with him. I don’t want to be compared but at the same time, I have to do better and better to keep people saying and doing the right things.
“At the same time, I don’t care a lot about what comes in the media but I will not say it is not good to hear people say good things about you. Of course it is good. Everyone likes that. It doesn’t matter if you play football or do other things. If you go to get your hair cut and go home and your kids say ‘your hair is better than it was before’ of course you are happy to hear that. In football it is the same.”
What to expect from Villarreal
Sky Sports’ Nick Wright:
“Unai Emery’s record in this competition speaks for itself.
“He suffered defeat in the Europa League final with Arsenal in 2019 but the former Sevilla boss heads into Wednesday’s game – his fifth final in the competition – aiming to become only the fourth manager in history to have won four major European trophies after Jose Mourinho, Bob Paisley and Giovanni Trappatoni.
“His record demands respect and his Villarreal side should not be underestimated.
“A seventh-placed finish in La Liga saw them miss out on European qualification via the league but they outplayed Arsenal in the first leg of their semi-final and then defended impressively to claim the draw they needed in the second.
“Their strength lies in the collective. They are difficult to break down and tactically they have bought into Emery’s vision. But there is plenty of individual talent to be wary of too.
“Gerard Moreno has been outstanding up front under Emery, scoring 29 goals in all competitions, and the Spain international will aim to capitalise on Maguire’s potential absence in Gdansk.
“Villarreal have lost Samuel Chukwueze, their explosive winger, due to injury but Dani Parejo is more than capable of controlling a game in midfield – as Arsenal found at La Ceramica – while Alfonso Pedraza’s marauding runs from left-back are a threat too.
“Manchester United head into the game as strong favourites but Villarreal will not make it easy. Real Madrid needed two late goals to beat them at the Bernabeu in La Liga on Saturday and before that fourth-placed Sevilla were thrashed 4-0.”
Emery: Nothing extra to prove after Arsenal exit
Wednesday will represent Villarreal’s first foray into a European final, but their manager Emery is one of the continent’s most experienced coaches in showpiece matches.
“Every final is different,” said the Spaniard, who has guided Villarreal to the final unbeaten. “The four previous finals I’ve played, in some I was favourite and some others I was not.
“To be favourite, it’s always before the game, isn’t it? Then when you play those 90 minutes, to be able to have situations on your side, offensively, defensively, that mood, that spirit you can create in your team plays a lot.
“For tomorrow we are very enthusiastic, we have got answers from the team at some important moments of the season so we know now we have a very, very strong and robust team.
“Of course Manchester United can be favourite, they are very good and if they play their best they can beat anyone but we will try and find some responses against this big team.”
Asked if he felt he had something extra to prove after his spell at the Gunners – who he knocked out in the Europa League semi-finals – the Spaniard added: “No, not at all. I am very proud to be able to defend this Villarreal project, the president and everyone who has been working for years to be constructing in this village, in the end, such a big football project in Europe.
“I want to enjoy it. There’s no revenge with any English team or English people.
“I’m proud to work in this club and proud to be playing this final, defending Villarreal’s colours.”
Opta stats – United to break English-Spanish final hoodoo?
- Villarreal and Manchester United will face for the fifth time, with each of the previous four meetings finishing 0-0 in the UEFA Champions League between 2005-06 and 2008-09. Manchester United have faced Villarreal more times without ever scoring than they have any other opponent in their history.
- This will be Manchester United’s eighth major European final, the second-most of any English club after Liverpool (14). They have been crowned winners in five of the previous seven finals, losing only against Barcelona in the UEFA Champions League in both 2008-09 and 2010-11.
- Villarreal have reached a major European final for the first time in their history, becoming the 11th different Spanish side to do so. The previous two Spanish sides to reach a major European final for the first time also faced an English opponent in that match (Alavés 4-5 Liverpool in the 2000-01 UEFA Cup and Sevilla 4-0 Middlesbrough in the 2005-06 UEFA Cup).
- On each of the last nine occasions of a Spanish side facing English opposition in a European competition final (including Super Cups), the Spanish club has won the match. The last to lose were Alaves against Liverpool in the 2000-01 UEFA Cup.
- Manchester United manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer will contest only his second final in his managerial career, having won the 2013 Norwegian Cup with Molde. Solskjaer would be the first Norwegian manager to win a major European trophy.
- Aged 19 years and 237 days on the day of the final, Manchester United’s Mason Greenwood could become only the second English teenager to score in a major UEFA European final after Brian Kidd, who scored on his 19th birthday for Manchester United in the 1968 European Cup final against Benfica.
- Villarreal’s Carlos Bacca scored twice in the 2014-15 UEFA Europa League final for Sevilla; he could become the first player to score in a major European final for two teams from the same nation since Hernán Crespo (1998-99 UEFA Cup with Parma, 2004-05 UEFA Champions League with Milan). Bacca would be the first player to do so for two Spanish teams.
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