Manchester United will be aiming to take a step towards the finals of the 2020/21 UEFA Europa League when they face off against AS Roma this midweek.
The semi-finals of the 2020/21 UEFA Europa League kick off this week with the first-leg of the penultimate stage of the competition set to be played out on Thursday night. While Villarreal will play hosts to Arsenal in Spain, Manchester United will be in action at Old Trafford, where they welcome Serie A giants AS Roma in the other semi-final.
Manchester United started the season in the Champions League but a poor ending to their group stage campaign saw them end up dropping down to the Europa League. The Red Devils eased past Real Sociedad in the Round of 32 before taking down AC Milan, who made Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s men work hard for a way through to the quarter-final, where United ousted La Liga side Granada, 4-0 on aggregate.
AS Roma, meanwhile, finished as comfortable winners in Group A of the Europa League ahead of the likes of BSC Young Boys, CFR Cluj and CSKA Sofia. Paulo Fonseca’s Giallorossi then went on to make light work of Portuguese outfit SC Braga and Ukrainian giants Shakhtar Donetsk in the first two knockout rounds before eliminating AFC Ajax in the quarter-final with a 3-2 aggregate victory.
Manchester United are on a six-game unbeaten run across all competitions currently. However, their previous game ended in a dour goalless draw against Leeds United in the Premier League. AS Roma, meanwhile, are on a four-game winless streak currently (D2 L2), with their latest game ending in a 3-2 defeat to Cagliari.
Ahead of this exciting match-up coming our way from Old Trafford, The Hard Tackle takes a closer look at both teams.
Team News & Tactics
— Manchester United (@ManUtd) April 28, 2021
Heading into the game, Manchester United do not have any fresh injury concerns, with Ole Gunnar Solskjaer set to be without the services of only Phil Jones and Anthony Martial. Marcus Rashford, who has been battling niggling issues over the past month, is fit and available for selection, the manager confirmed on the eve of the game.
David de Gea has been the preferred goalkeeper in the Europa League of late with Dean Henderson starting in the Premier League matches. So, the Spaniard should get the nod on Thursday night at Old Trafford. The backline shielding him pretty much picks itself as Victor Lindelof and Harry Maguire form the centre-back partnership even though Eric Bailly is fit and available.
Aaron Wan-Bissaka is the undisputed starter at right-back while Luke Shaw should be retained ahead of Alex Telles on the left. The England international will have a key role to play with his forward forays and chance-creation on his side.
Solskjaer usually tends to go with the pairing of Fred and Scott McTominay in the midfield double pivot for the big games. And that is unlikely to change on Thursday either. Bruno Fernandes will be the chief creator from the No. 10 role with support coming from Paul Pogba, who should slot in on the left flank after not starting against Leeds at the weekend. Marcus Rashford, meanwhile, ought to start on the right.
Mason Greenwood has been in fine touch of late but Edinson Cavani, who did not start in the last game, is in line to start as the centre-forward for Manchester United against Roma.
Probable Lineup (4-2-3-1): de Gea; Wan-Bissaka, Lindelof, Maguire, Shaw; McTominay, Fred; Rashford, Fernandes, Pogba; Cavani
The Giallorossi, meanwhile, will be without four players for their trip to Manchester. Nicolo Zaniolo, Riccardo Calafiori and ex-Chelsea winger, Pedro, all miss out with injuries while key defender Gianluca Mancini misses out with suspension. Former Manchester United stars Chris Smalling and Henrikh Mkhitaryan have been included in the 21-man travelling squad by manager Paulo Fonseca.
— AS Roma English (@ASRomaEN) April 28, 2021
Roma will line up in a 3-4-2-1 formation with former Tottenham goalkeeper Pau Lopez lining up in goal. Roger Ibanez will form the three-man defensive unit alongside Bryan Cristante and Smalling, who will be returning to Old Trafford for the first time since leaving permanently last summer. Rick Karsdorp and Bruno Peres should be the two wing-backs on the right and left sides respectively.
Jordan Veretout and Amadou Diawara will hold down the fort in the middle of the park. They will have the responsibility of cutting out the creative influence of Bruno Fernandes and Paul Pogba on the night.
Lorenzo Pellegrini and Mkhitaryan should be the two attacking midfielders, who will be the primary chance-creators for former Manchester City star Edin Dzeko, who will be the centre-forward, while Borja Mayoral will be an option from the bench.
Probable Lineup (3-4-2-1): Lopez; Ibanez, Smalling, Cristante; Karsdorp, Veretout, Diawara, Peres; Pellegrini, Mkhitaryan; Dzeko
- Manchester United have won their last four home matches against Roma in all competitions.
- AS Roma are undefeated in their last six games in the UEFA Europa League.
- Manchester United have kept a clean sheet in five of their last six encounters in the Europa League.
- Roma will be looking for their first European away victory against English opponent since 2001 (1-0 vs Liverpool in the UEFA Cup). They have failed to win their last 12 such games against seven English sides (D4 L8).
- Manchester United have only lost one of their last 12 games against Italian opposition in European competition (W8 D3).
Player to Watch
— Manchester United (@ManUtd) April 27, 2021
Bruno Fernandes has been Manchester United’s main man this season, having plundered 24 goals and 14 assists from 51 matches in all competitions. However, the Portuguese international has been going through a bit of a slump of late. Indeed, the 26-year-old has just one goal and assist each from his last games across all competitions and had a quiet game against Leeds United.
For Manchester United to put behind the disappointment of last season and go all the way in Europe this term, they will need Fernandes to step up and deliver in the upcoming matches. It bodes well for him that Roma haven’t had the best defensive records this term, having let in 51 goals from 33 league outings so far. A big game for the Portuguese superstar.
Manchester United 2-1 AS Roma
Manchester United were quite off colour against Leeds last time out but are unbeaten in their last six games. Roma, meanwhile, are coming into the game on the back of a four-game winless streak and were outdone by relegation-battling Cagliari last time out. Even though the Red Devils have been solid defensively of late, they have been susceptible against set-pieces, something Edin Dzeko can capitalise on.
However, given the visitors ordinary defensive record, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer & co. should be able to pick up a win on Thursday, although the away goal would still give Roma a fighting chance heading into the second leg.