Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has done an excellent job this season, as he has led United to the semi-finals of a European competition in his very first season. The Europa League is often a competition that is overlooked, but if you’re involved, you will certainly want to win the tournament. United last achieved success in the competition back in 2017, as Paul Pogba was among the scorers when United beat Ajax in the final in Stockholm. But, how do the Red Devils stack up against the sides that are left standing in the competition this season?
Before United can start looking forward to which team they could potentially face in the final of the competition on the 21st August, they must first navigate past a tricky looking task against Sevilla. The Spanish side are the most successful side in the history of this competition, as they have won the tournament on five previous occasions. Included in those successes, are the three Europa Leagues that they won between 2013 and 2016 under Unai Emery.
While this Sevilla side struggles to compare to that illustrious team, there is still an awful lot of quality. Lucas Ocampos will be the man that United will have to look out for as he has already scored 17 goals this season, while talented Argentinean Ever Banega has registered ten assists in 39 games in all competitions. There will also be a lot of attention on left-back Sergio Reguilon, who has been attracting interest from Chelsea throughout the summer. It will be a tough semi-final against Sevilla, but their high pressing could play into the hands of the Red Devils.
One of the potential opponents that could come up against United in the final will be Inter Milan, and there is already a strong narrative behind that potential fixture. Antonio Conte led the club to second place finish in Serie A this season, as they finished just a point behind Juventus in his campaign in charge. There is also likely to be a lot of attention on former United stars Romelu Lukaku and Ashley Young should the Red Devils come up against Inter.
Alexis Sanchez has also recently moved to Inter, but he will be ineligible to play in the semi-final. Lukaku would be the biggest talking point, as Solskjaer made the brave decision to sell the Belgium international at the beginning of the season. His decision has been vindicated as Marcus Rashford, Anthony Martial and Mason Greenwood have filled the void, and a victory over Lukaku’s Inter in the final would be further evidence that the decision made by Solskjaer was the right one. Inter’s main strength is in their defence, but it is hard to ignore their talents in the final third with Lukaku and Lautaro Martinez scoring a combined total of 50 goals this season.
However, Inter also have a tough challenge ahead of them before they can begin to think about the final. They will first have to overcome a Shakhtar Donetsk side that have already had joy against a number of sides in the quarterfinals of the Champions League. The Ukrainian side dropped into the Europa League after they finished third in Group C of their Champions League group. However, there was enough in their performances throughout that group stage that should worry Inter.
Shakhtar beat Atalanta in Italy on the second match day, while they also claimed a point at the Etihad in their penultimate game. Since dropping into the Europa League, they have got past difficult opponents in Benfica and Wolfsburg, while they also swept aside Basel in the previous round. Unlike previous Shakhtar sides, their emphasis is on attacking play, as they have already scored 22 goals in nine European games this season.
Article contributed by Contributor Alex. Comments are appreciated on our Facebook page.