Tag Archives: Europa League

Villarreal vs Manchester United – Europa League final prediction

The end of a long, tumultuous club campaign is finally upon us as we enter European cup final week, starting with the Europa League.

Unai Emery’s Villarreal look to secure themselves Champions League qualification for next season when they take on Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s Manchester United, who are looking to earn their first trophy together with the former player at the helm.

Emery has won the competition three times previously, all with Sevilla, while he also made the final in 2019 as manager of Arsenal although they lost 4-1 to Chelsea. United on the other hand are reaching their first final in any competition since losing the FA Cup final to Chelsea in 2018 and will look to win their first trophy since winning the Europa League in 2017 under Jose Mourinho.

Villarreal made it to the final unbeaten in the competition throughout, winning 11 of their 14 games so far this season. They’ve showed some great attacking flair, scoring 27 goals but have also been able to shut up shop when necessary and defend well, conceding just eight times.

They were able to skip past Arsenal will relative ease in the semi-finals, winning the home tie before keeping a clean sheet in a goalless draw at the Emirates to secure their path to Gdansk, with Emery switching up his approach for each game.

Manchester United only entered the tournament at the knockout stages after crashing out of the Champions League before Christmas. They’ve had a pretty tough run of it too, but were able to comfortably navigate their way to the final with aggregate wins over Real Sociedad, AC Milan, Granada and Roma.

United have scored 18 times in the Europa League this season in just eight games, and had conceded just once before the semi-final affair with Roma which saw them win 8-5 on aggregate.

They’ve been the favourites since dropping down into the tournament and have lived up to that tag well, controlling all the ties they’ve been part of for the vast majority of the time on the pitch.

Solskjaer’s side essentially picks itself at the moment. Harry Maguire’s injury is the biggest question mark, because if he is unavailable then the decision must be made about whether to start the more experienced Eric Bailly or the in-form Axel Tuanzebe alongside Victor Lindelof.

It seems almost certain that he’ll continue with his favoured McFred combination in midfield, which means Paul Pogba will start in one of the wide positions again. Marcus Rashford and Bruno Fernandes are almost sure to start, which means the final spot comes down to whether Mason Greenwood or Edinson Cavani will start up front – with my money going on ‘El Matador’.

Emery’s team selection is a bit more fluid, depending on what type of approach he chooses to take. Winger Samuel Chukwueze is expected to be fit enough to at least be on the bench but whether the manager chooses to go with a more defensive approach could decide the rest of his midfield.

He’s likely to opt to sit back and force United to try and break them down, something they have notoriously struggled with under Ole’s tenure at the club.

With that said though, Solskjaer has managed to build the strongest team that United have had since Sir Alex Ferguson’s retirement and they’re best placed to win the competition. They have the better individual players, are in better form and even without Maguire they should be good enough to hold strong defensively.

It will likely be a very cagey affair, with not many goals unless someone can score early on. But I can’t see past Manchester United getting the victory with the added quality they have and it’ll likely be that man Fernandes to pop up with the winner.


PREDICTION
Villarreal 0-1 Manchester United

Leicester bottle top four as Liverpool and Chelsea scrape Champions League football

Liverpool and Chelsea will be playing Champions League football next season after Leicester were beaten on the final day of a crazy Premier League season.

All three teams needed to win to ensure that they had a chance of finishing in the top four this season, but Jurgen Klopp’s side were the only ones victorious on Sunday thanks to a 2-0 win over Crystal Palace with goals from Sadio Mane.

That meant the final spot came down to this season’s FA Cup finalists and when both teams were beaten, it meant that Chelsea stayed above the Foxes to claim entry in the elite European competition next season.

Leicester took the lead against Tottenham thanks to a Jamie Vardy penalty before Harry Kane equalised. Vardy then converted a second penalty to put them ahead once again, only for Kasper Schmeichel to accidentally turn the ball into his own net. Gareth Bale then scored twice off the substitutes bench to seal a 4-2 win, meaning Chelsea’s 2-1 defeat to Aston Villa meant nothing.

It’s the second season in a row where Leicester have failed to secure top four and Champions League football despite leading the way for the vast majority of the campaign.

Last year they failed when they lost to Manchester United on the final day, meaning Chelsea’s win against Wolves saw them overtake them in fourth place. This year they failed to make the most of the fact that they were in the top four places for longer than any other team, including eventual runaway champions Manchester City and runners-up Manchester United.

While they were able to lift the FA Cup for the first time in their history, if you’d give fans the choice of securing a trophy or securing Champions League football next season I think quite a few would’ve picked finishing higher up the table.

It would have brought in big revenue, plenty of pulling power for potential transfer targets but also would’ve seen them take the chip off their shoulder from last season. Instead now, they’ll head into next season with yet another failed domestic campaign looming over their heads.

Liverpool on the other hand will be delighted with how they finished the campaign. They suffered tremendously with injuries this season and used 19 different centre-back pairings throughout the season, often using Fabinho and even Jordan Henderson there.

But their late charge of form was boosted when they returned the Brazilian to his preferred holding midfield position, winning eight of their last ten games to close a seven point gap and eventually finish in third place.

As for Chelsea, they did so much work since Thomas Tuchel took over in January to become hard to beat and a well organised attacking outfit. While the work they did got them to the FA Cup final, Champions League final and into the top four for next season, the Blues have begun showing some flaws in recent games.

They’ve now lost three of their last four games, including the FA Cup final and with the Champions League final against Manchester City next weekend they need to swing momentum quick-fast in their favour. They could be without first-choice goalkeeper Edouard Mendy too, who was forced off at half-time against Aston Villa after colliding with the post when trying to stop their first goal.

With Manchester City winning 5-0 in their final game of the season, the morale and mood of both teams could not be any more polar opposite and is something both managers will have to ensure they put it in their favour ahead of the biggest game of the season.

Arsenal dumped out of Europe as Manchester United get to the final

Arsenal were dumped out of the Europa League at the semi-final stage by former manager Unai Emery’s Villarreal side to set up a final in Gdansk against Manchester United.

The Gunners came into the game knowing they had to win after losing the first leg 2-1 and Mikel Arteta set the team up with a five-at-the-back formation that was troubled before the game even started, with Granit Xhaka getting injured in the warm up.

Kieran Tierney came in but Arsenal struggled throughout, having just two shots on target in the 90 minutes as they were held to a 0-0 draw and dumped out of the tournament.

Villarreal remain unbeaten throughout the tournament so far and Emery has now made it to a record five Europa League finals, after winning three-in-a-row with Sevilla before losing in the final to Chelsea as Arsenal manager in 2019.

They will now face Manchester United in the final who’s first leg 6-2 win was enough to see them through as they lost 3-2 on the night in Rome and saw off a little scare.

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer was able to get to his first final as manager of the club and he named a strong team on the night despite the club being set to play four games in seven days prior to kick off. Edinson Cavani gave the Reds the lead to settle any nerves, but Roma scored two goals in very quick succession to give themselves hope.

Cavani scored once again to wrap up progression, although Roma scored once more to earn themselves a win when youngster Nicola Zalewski’s strike came off Alex Telles and went through David De Gea’s legs.

Despite that, United showed they were the better team throughout the two legs and can finally put the ridiculous semi-final curse under Solskjaer behind them.

Arsenal must now really consider their future, as they face having no European football whatsoever next season for the first time in 25 years. The club are currently sat in ninth place and unless they can make up a five point swing over Liverpool, who have played a game less, in four games then they will be without.

Arteta was a gamble at the time of his appointment and it is one that has failed. Despite winning the FA Cup in his first season, he has accumulated just 49 points in 34 games and this season has failed to make it to a final of any cup competition.

The Gunners look totally incapable of being a genuine threat against teams who have any sort of clue what they’re doing and are always open to an error or three at the back to allow teams to punish them.

Fans have now turned on him and with the atmosphere at the club already volatile with fans against the owners, it seems unlikely that he’ll be able to ride this storm out once again and make it to next season.

Manchester United on the other hand will be favourites going into the final in Poland, with the better players and team than Villarreal but Emery’s experience in winning this competition will prove vital without a doubt.

United do have weaknesses in the way they play and Emery will undoubtedly look to expose those issues to help the Spanish side win the first European trophy in their history.

In a fun coincidence the final will be played on May 26th, the same date that Solskjaer famously scored the winning goal in the UEFA Champions League final back in 1999 as the Red Devils won the treble.

Villarreal vs Arsenal – Europa League semi-final prediction

The Europa League is down to its final four teams and there are some very intriguing ties to be played out to decipher who will lift the trophy come the end of the season.

Premier League side Manchester United will take on Serie A side AS Roma as the two remaining strongest teams in the competition, with Arsenal going head-to-head against their former manager when they take on Villarreal.

We’ll preview both knockout ties once again and give our predictions as we have done for every English club tie in the competition so far, starting with Mikel Arteta’s Arsenal side taking on former boss Unai Emery’s new team with his Europa League prowess in full flow again.

The La Liga side went through the group stages of the tournament unbeaten, winning five of the six games and conceding just five goals. They were able to finish above Maccabi Tel-Aviv, Sivasspor and Qarabag before being drawn against RB Salzburg in the last 32 of the competition.

They dispatched of the Austrian side winning both home and away, before also beating Dynamo Kyiv 2-0 both home and away to set up a quarter-final tie against Dinamo Zagreb. Emery’s side then won both legs of that tie against the Croatian side, to maintain an unbeaten record throughout the tournament so far this season.

Unai Emery has won the tournament three times before, winning a hat-trick with Sevilla between 2014 and 2016. He also reached the final as manager of the Gunners back in 2019, but they were thumped 4-1 by Chelsea in the final.

He was sacked the following season, allowing for Arteta to take over the reigns where he has struggled to find any sort of consistent form since.

This season he was able to navigate the group stages with relative ease, coming through a group containing Dundalk, Molde and Rapid Wien with six wins from six games. They then took on Benfica in the round of 32 and managed to progress thanks to a late winner from Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang in the second leg, before a last 16 tie against Olympiacos saw them win the home leg 3-1 meaning the 1-0 home defeat still saw them progress.

They then faced off with Slavia Prague in the quarter-finals, where they drew 1-1 at the Emirates Stadium before a thumping 4-0 win in Prague got them to this stage.

Domestically, both sides have had differing seasons too. Villarreal currently sit in seventh place with 49 points from 33 games having lost three of their last four games, while Arsenal sit in tenth in the Premier League with 46 points from 33 games. For both teams this is their final chance at claiming a Champions League place for next season, while for Arsenal it could be their only hope at European football at all.

Arsenal have the better players individually, but Arteta has really struggled to get them playing to their capabilities. Emery has mastered this competition and Villarreal’s undefeated run to this point certainly makes them favourites in my books.

Gerard Moreno is a goalscoring machine this season with 20 in all competitions and with Dani Parejo, Samuel Chukwueze and Paco Alcacer all among the supporting cast they have enough quality to punish Arsenal.

The first game being in Spain is a big advantage to Arsenal since they’ll be at home for the second leg and know what needs to be done to secure qualification, but even still I expect Emery to be able to find the weaknesses in the Gunners side and expose them enough to secure yet another Europa League final.


PREDICTION

Villarreal 2-1 Arsenal
Arsenal 1-1 Villarreal
(Villarreal to progress 3-2 on aggregate)

Manchester United vs AS Roma – Europa League semi-final prediction

The Europa League is down to its final four teams and there are some very intriguing ties to be played out to decipher who will lift the trophy come the end of the season.

Premier League side Manchester United will take on Serie A side AS Roma as the two remaining strongest teams in the competition, with Arsenal going head-to-head against their former manager when they take on Villarreal.

We’ll preview both knockout ties once again and give our predictions as we have done for every English club tie in the competition so far, starting with Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s side’s trip to take on the side from the Italian capital.

The Red Devils fell into the Europa League after a disappointing showing in the Champions League group stages, where they failed to get the one point they needed from their final two games and and crashed out behind PSG and RB Leipzig.

They were able to comfortably dispatch of Real Sociedad in the last 32 before beating AC Milan in the last 16 and Granada in the quarter-finals to set this tie up, all while keeping up their good performances in the Premier League to all but secure second place behind Manchester City.

They’ve lost just once since a defeat to Sheffield United in January, being eliminated by Leicester in the FA Cup quarter-finals to make it just one loss in 21 games. Since that defeat to Leicester they have won five out of six, although they were held by Leeds at the weekend to a 0-0 draw.

Roma on the other hand were in the Europa League from the start of the season, winning their group including Young Boys, CFR Cluj and CSKA Sofia. They then won home and away against Braga in the last 32 and Shakhtar Donetsk in the last 16, before a back and forth tie against Ajax in the quarter-finals saw them win in Amsterdam and then held in Rome to claim a tight win.

In Serie A their form hasn’t been as positive, as they currently sit in seventh place in the league comfortably out of the race for the Champions League places for next season. They won just twice in their last eight games in all competitions in the build up to this game and were beaten 3-2 by Cagliari at the weekend.

They’ve suffered with injury problems in recent weeks, but former Manchester United duo Chris Smalling and Henrikh Mkhitaryan are back and should start the game.

Mkhitaryan has been one of Roma’s best players this season, with 11 goals and nine assists in all competitions. He was key when Manchester United lifted this trophy in 2017 under Jose Mourinho, scoring in the final, but this season he has struggled in Europe for the most part.

As the Reds look to win a trophy for the first time since that success under Mourinho, Solskjaer looks to prioritise this tournament and will likely go with a strong team. Anthony Martial is injured and Marcus Rashford is battling through the pain barrier constantly, but other than that the club have a clean bill of health to choose from.

It’s hard to see how Manchester United could fail to progress into the next round without criminally under-performing. They are comfortably the best team left in the competition and Solskjaer absolutely must break the semi-final hoodoo that he has had since taking over two-and-a-half years ago.

Defensively they’re better, going forward they’re better and they have the better individual players too to create a moment of magic if necessary. Considering the way they have been able to perform in recent months, I’d be very surprised if they weren’t able to get through to the final.

With the first leg at home this time, United will need to ensure a positive result at Old Trafford to take with them to Italy to make sure there is as little pressure on the second leg as possible. A home win will allow for them to be able to play on the counter attack in the Stadio Olimpico, which suits the team’s strengths far more than having to break them down.


PREDICTION

Man Utd 2-0 Roma
Roma 1-2 Man Utd
(Manchester United to progress 4-1 on aggregate)

Arsenal vs Slavia Prague – Europa League quarter-final predictions

The Europa League enters it’s serious phase as the quarter-finals are finally upon us in Europe’s secondary competition.

England have two representatives remaining and both teams got favourable draws, with the Manchester United coming up against La Liga side Granada, while Arsenal will come up against Czech Republican’s Slavia Prague.

The Gunners made it into the last eight after leaving it late to get past Benfica in the round of 32 before beating Olympiacos in their away leg and losing at the Emirates, scraping through with a 3-2 aggregate win. Slavia Prague on the other hand have been the British slayers so far in the knockout rounds, holding Leicester to a 0-0 draw at home before beating them 2-0 at the King Power. They then took on Steven Gerrard’s Rangers side, drawing 1-1 in Prague before beating them 2-0 at Ibrox.

Arsenal will come into this game off the back of a not-so great run with just two wins in their last six games in all competitions and none in their last three, including a thumping at home this past weekend by an out of sorts Liverpool side.

Slavia Prague on the other hand are unbeaten in all competitions since back in December, winning 16 of the 21 fixtures they’ve played since a Europa League group stage defeat to Bayer Leverkusen. They’ve proven to be a very stubborn outfit to play against, not giving up many chances but also posing a threat at the other end.

Arteta’s side have arguably been better in Europe than domestically, although plenty can be said about the quality of opposition they have faced on the continent this year. Stylistically though, it seems to work a bit better for them. They have more space to operate in and the creative outlets like Bukayo Saka, Martin Odegaard, Emile Smith Rowe and Nicolas Pepe are allowed to cook up more problems for the opposition.

As for Slavia Prague, they have kept five clean sheets in their last six Europa League games and the pace and directness of their star man Abdallah Sima could be an issue for Arsenal’s leaky defence. He’s supported by a high quality cast too including striker Jan Kutcha and playmaker Nicolae Stanciu.

The north London side’s best chance of victory will come if they can keep hold of the ball, recycle possession well and move the ball from side to side quickly, trying to disorganise the Slavia defence. They will need to be careful on the counter attack and this will likely be their toughest tie of the competition so far.

They will know however that a win will see them enter the semi-finals for a game against either Villarreal or Shakhtar, meaning a potential reunion with former manager Unai Emery – who got them into the final of this competition during his only full season at the helm.

Overall, I doubted Prague in the last two rounds and they silenced me but I’m willing to go for the hat-trick in this one. Arsenal have got a lot of individual quality in comparison to their opposition squad and despite the poor run of results domestically, if Slavia Prague were able to progress into the next round over two legs it would without a doubt be considered an upset.

Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Alexandre Lacazette will need to find their goalscoring boots once again to help against a pretty sturdy defence but even if they don’t, Arsenal should have enough about them to be able to secure a win over two legs.


PREDICTION

Arsenal 2-0 Slavia Prague
Slavia Prague 1-0 Arsenal
(Arsenal to progress 2-1 on aggregate)

Granada vs Manchester United – Europa League quarter-final predictions

The Europa League enters it’s serious phase as the quarter-finals are finally upon us in Europe’s secondary competition.

England have two representatives remaining and both teams got favourable draws, with the Manchester United coming up against La Liga side Granada, while Arsenal will come up against Czech Republican’s Slavia Prague.

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s side made it through to this stage after crashing out of the Champions League at the group stages, overcoming Real Sociedad 4-0 on aggregate in the last 32 before beating AC Milan in the San Siro to claim a 2-1 aggregate win to set up this tie. Granada on the other hand had a slightly less comfortable run to this round, beating Napoli and then Solskjaer’s former side Molde 2-0 at home, before losing the away legs 2-1 and sneaking through 3-2 on aggregate both times.

Manchester United’s poor start to the season has somewhat faded away on the results side of the season, as they currently sit in second place in the Premier League and opened up a four point gap over third place Leicester and a nine point gap ahead of fifth place Chelsea.

Granada’s domestic campaign isn’t going so sweetly, as they currently sit in ninth place in La Liga with 36 points from 29 games, their last three games in a row in all competitions and four of their last six.

United’s game plan will be obvious. They have the better individual players and are in far better form, so you would expect them to hold onto the ball and try to carve Granada open through their most creative players in Paul Pogba, Bruno Fernandes and Marcus Rashford. They have tremendous pace on the counter attacks which Granada will know all about, but they do struggle against more direct and tricky wingers.

The Spaniards themselves tend to attack down the right hand side with Antonio Puertas the key man down that side, while former Valencia and Tottenham striker Roberto Soldado leads the line at 36 years of age. They’re very good at creating chances although taking them has been an issue this season, with only 34 league goals scored in 29 games – although they have scored 12 in ten Europa League games.

They’re also good from set-pieces, with centre-back German Sanchez scoring three times this season already. It’s something Manchester United will need to be aware of, having struggled from set-pieces at times this season including the equaliser for Milan in the first-leg at Old Trafford.

The Red Devils will likely rotate their squad slightly, with the likes of Donny Van de Beek and Axel Tuanzebe potentially getting starts while Mason Greenwood will be keen to carry on his decent form after scoring in each of his last two games.

Ultimately, this is Manchester United’s tie to lose. They’re by far the better team, with the better players and stylistically they should be able to dominate the game in any phase they so choose. Granada will no doubt put up a good fight and in Spain they could well grab themselves a sneaky draw to take back to Old Trafford, but they will need to play the perfect game twice in a week and hope Manchester United don’t show up in order to progress.


PREDICTION

Granada 0-2 Man United
Man United 3-0 Granada
(Man United to progress 5-0 on aggregate)

Manchester United beat AC Milan thanks to Paul Pogba’s reminder of quality

Manchester United progressed into the Europa League quarter-finals with a 1-0 win at the San Siro over AC Milan, thanks to substitute Paul Pogba’s goal after returning from injury.

The Frenchman has been missing for almost two months with a hamstring injury picked up in the 3-3 draw with Everton in January, but returned to the substitutes bench in this must-win game for the Reds.

He came on at half-time for Marcus Rashford, who suffered a reoccurrence of his ankle problem, and scored just three minutes later with a fine dummy and strike at the near post as Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s side held on for a huge win in Milan.

It was a tough first half, where the visitors were very sloppy in possession and struggled to create clear-cut chances once again. Bruno Fernandes had arguably his worst performance in a Manchester United shirt, completing just 54% of his passes in the first 45 minutes.

Enter Pogba, who’s presence in the team immediately seemed to settle the team as the rest of the team looked to him and gave him the ball as much as possible.

His goal was a well taken strike and meant the game opened up even more in United’s favour and a stellar defensive performance from both Victor Lindelof and Harry Maguire meant a fifth clean sheet in six games.

Lindelof turned in a man of the match performance on the night, winning headers, clearing crosses and stopping a few counter attacks when left exposed when his full-back was caught out high too. Maguire was dominant aerially once again, even once Zlatan Ibrahimovic came off the bench, and his passing was good from the back to link Luke Shaw into attacks well too.

Pogba’s return to the team was the boost the team have needed with the added quality in midfield. His ball retention was excellent and exactly what the team was missing during this most recent period of bad results, with his intelligence and quality on the ball a huge ingredient in how good a player he is.

It’s not a coincidence that United crumbled when he went off injured and struggled for form while he was away, but now as they welcome him back into the side for the business end of the season they will be hopeful that he can pick up exactly where he left off.

It’s a swift and timely reminder of how important the 28-year-old is to this side and just how difficult he will be to replace should he leave in the summer as he enters the final 12 months of his contract.

United now will look ahead to the last eight of the Europa League, knowing they are likely to be favourites against whoever they draw and are now the favourites to win the entire competition for the first time since 2017.

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s lack of in-game management costs Man United again

Manchester United conceded a late set-piece goal once again to gift AC Milan an away goal in their Europa League last 16 game as the sides drew 1-1 at Old Trafford.

United overcame a tough start thanks to a questionable VAR decision when Franck Kessie’s fine strike was ruled out for handball, despite replays seemingly showing the ball never struck his arm. A shocking first half performance from the home side came to an end and saw Anthony Martial substituted with an injury, allowing Amad Diallo to come on at half-time.

It took less than five minutes for Amad to make his mark, as he broke the deadlock with a beautiful looping header over Gianluigi Donnarumma after an excellent pass from Bruno Fernandes. The Reds barely threatened after that though as Milan bossed the midfield and eventually found an equaliser in stoppage time thanks to a Simon Kjaer header from a corner, which Dean Henderson should have done better with.

It would be wrong to suggest that Milan didn’t deserve a draw at the very least from the game, but when you consider that United were ahead in the 92nd minute it automatically tells you that it was their game to win.

After brining on Amad at half-time, Ole made a further three changes in the game. All at the same time, with around 20 minutes to go and with the Serie A side in the ascendancy he opted to take off Bruno Fernandes, Daniel James and Aaron Wan-Bissaka and replace them with Fred, Brandon Williams and Luke Shaw.

That instantly handed the initiative to Milan, who were now essentially invited into United’s final third to sustain pressure on their goal. While they didn’t create many clear-cut chances up to the goal, it was the intent of the substitutions that changed the game even moreso into the Italian’s favour.

You’d have thought that Solskjaer would have learnt from past mistakes, too. Against Everton recently he brought on Axel Tuanzebe to try and see out the game with the Toffees in the ascendancy and they scored in the 95th minute from a free-kick being swung into the box. Going back further the same thing happened against Southampton at Old Trafford last season, with the Reds dropping points thanks to an injury time Michael Obafemi goal from a corner.

Rather than trying to get some control of the game to see it out, he chose to just flood the pitch with defensive players. That meant that even when they did get on the ball they had no outlet and the ball just ended up going straight back to Milan for their attacking to start again.

Manchester United v A.C. Milan - UEFA Europa League Round Of 16 Leg One : News Photo

It says something that with one set of substitutions, Solskjaer managed to go from 1-0 up with a balanced 4231 formation to a 5-3-2 formation with three left-backs on the pitch and his starting defensive midfielder playing as the most advanced midfielder now, with the two players who’d started their evenings on the right wing now playing as strikers.

These decisions change the entire mentality of the team on the pitch, almost admitting to them that they’re going to have to dig in for this result now rather than continue to play as they were.

To be clear too, there is nothing wrong per-say with making defensive substitutions so long as you don’t outright change the mentality of the team. Bringing on Fred for Bruno alone would have done the same job he was intending to do but still would have had three attacking players and a back-four. Different personnel, but mostly the same shape – just a bit of control and sturdiness added to a side that were holding on to a short lead.

As United continue to concede these late goals, especially from set-pieces, and the manager continues to make odd in-game decisions that negatively effect the outcome of games, they cannot progress to the level they want to at the business end of the season.

A game that was entirely theirs to lose has now been thrown away and it’s advantage Milan heading to the San Siro for the second leg next week.

Europa League last 16 predictions – Manchester United vs AC Milan

Two absolute giants of the game meet in a competition not befitting of their stature as Manchester United and AC Milan clash in the last 16 of the Europa League.

The Red Devils crashed out of the Champions League at the group stages after defeats in the final two group games against Paris Saint-Germain and RB Leipzig, before cruising through the round of 32 against Real Sociedad with a 4-0 away win in the first leg. A much relaxed second leg ended goalless as United controlled the tie from the off.

Milan on the other side came through the group stages as group winners, topping the table ahead of Lille, Celtic and Sparta Prague. They were paired up with Red Star Belgrade in the next round where they were held to draws home and away, but the three away goals they scored in comparison to Red Star’s were enough to see them progress.

Manchester United come into the tie in far from the greatest form, but having most recently snapped their rivals Man City’s 21-game winning streak with a 2-0 win at the Etihad. They’ve looked impeccable in the Europa League and their squad is more than strong enough to win the entire competition.

AC Milan on the other hand had started the season incredibly brightly domestically, but have recently fallen off and now find themselves in second place six points behind local rivals Inter in the title race. They’ve won just two of their last seven games in all competitions conceding ten goals and keeping just one clean sheet in that time.

It’s a welcomed return to the upper echelons of the table for the Milan side, who’ve seen their fortunes turned since the appointment of Stefano Pioli last season. Zlatan Ibrahimovic has continued to be excellent since returning, although he’s likely to miss the games against his former side with injury while the likes of Rafael Leao, Franck Kessie, Brahim Diaz and Theo Hernandez have all performed exceedingly well.

Both sides have used somewhat rotated sides in the competition so far, and depth is a strength that they both have but it’s hard to look at both squads and not think that United have the edge in this tie.

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has opted for a somewhat stronger team for the the two games so far and it’s likely he’ll do something similar here. Marcus Rashford is likely to miss the first leg with an ankle problem, which means Bruno Fernandes is likely to carry the load for the side while he’s injured. That’s not ideal since United would likely rather rest him if they could, but he could hold the key to their progression.

Milan are a good pressing side that tend to take the majority of chances they create, while defensively they’re solid in the air and and very good at nicking the ball in the midfield. They are however prone to individual errors and their shape isn’t the most impressive which could allow a United side in the mood to create.

When the draw was made many people saw United crashing out of the competition, but generally I think people are more fearing of the name of the club rather than the actual team on the pitch.

At their best, Manchester United are the better team and over two legs the expectation is that they should be able to get the win and progress into the quarter-finals as the favourites to win the entire competition.