It’s been four years since Manchester United last hoisted a trophy and they’ll have a chance to get their hands on silverware again when they face Spanish club Villarreal CF in the UEFA Europa League Final on Wednesday in Gdansk, Poland.
The Red Devils, and their championship pedigree spanning decades, are favorites against a Villarreal team from a small city (population 50,000) on the Spanish coast that is playing its first-ever final in a European competition. But the Yellow Submarine, as the team is nicknamed, is not to be taken lightly.
Villarreal may have finished in seventh place in Spain’s La Liga, but they’ve proven a force in the Europa League this season. They’re unbeaten so far, winning 12 of 14 matches and outscoring opponents by a combined 30-8.
Manchester United were no slouches themselves in the Europa League, knocking off two Spanish sides (Real Sociedad and Granada) and two Italian powers (Milan and Roma) on the road to Gdansk.
When is the Europa League Final in 2021?
- Date: Wednesday, May 26
- Time: 3 p.m. ET / Noon PT
The UEFA Europa League final between Manchester United and Villarreal is scheduled for 3 p.m. ET on Wednesday, May 26.
How to watch the Europa League final in USA
- TV channel: CBS Sports Network (CBSSN)
- Live stream: Paramount+, fuboTV (7-day free trial)
- Spanish-language TV: UniMas, TUDN Deportes
CBS Sports Network, UniMás and TUDN will carry the 2021 UEFA Europa League final and both networks are available via fuboTV’s 7-day free trial.
Europa League finalist snapshots
The Spanish side have an extra special motivation: An automatic berth in next year’s UEFA Champions League is at stake and more than a $35 million cash injection that comes with playing in the group stage. (Manchester United has already qualified to next year’s Champions League by virtue of finishing second in the English Premier League.)
And if that weren’t enough, Villarreal have a coach with a chip on his shoulder. Unai Emery (above left) joined Villarreal this season after being unceremoniously fired by English club Arsenal before his contract was up. He got his revenge against his former club by knocking them out in the semis and now he wants to finish the job in a tournament he has owned.
Remarkably, Emery is on the cusp of winning his fourth Europa League title after the three he won with Sevilla (2014-2016). He also took Arsenal to the final in 2019. He will match wits against Manchester United manager and club legend Ole Gunnar Solskjaer (above right), who led his club to the semis of this competition last year, where they succumbed to Emery’s old club, Sevilla.
This year Solskjaer has an added weapon in Uruguayan striker Edinson Cavani to go with the talent of World Cup champion Paul Pogba and magical playmaker Bruno Fernandes. His biggest concern will be replacing starting central defender Harry Maguire, who traveled to Gdansk but is unlikely to recover in time from an ankle ligament injury.
Looking to take advantage of Maguire’s absence is Villarreal top scorer Gerard Moreno (photo below), who netted 29 goals in all competitions this season and will have to shoulder the attacking load with star Nigerian winger Samuel Chukwueze out injured. But Villarreal’s most exciting prospect is a defender: 24-year-old Spanish center back Pau Torres, who will be charged with stopping Cavani.
Manchester United vs. Villarreal odds
- Villarreal Moneyline: +350
- Draw Moneyline: +240
- Manchester United Moneyline: -118
- Under 1.5 total goals: +235
- Under 0.5 total goals: +850
Odds courtesy of DraftKings and based on 90-minute regulation result
Many are expecting a tight encounter with both teams unafraid to play ugly to secure a result. The teams happen to have played to 0-0 draws in ALL four of their previous encounters (back in 2005 and 2008).
Emery is known for his tactical gameplans and Solskjaer for his risk-averse approach to big matches. This final will come down to a set piece, gaffe or a shining moment of skill.
Where is the Europa League Final played?
The Stadion Miejski in Gdansk, Poland, which opened in 2011, will be the site of the 2021 final.
The stadium was originally scheduled to host the 2020 Europa League final, but its turn was pushed by a year because of the pandemic, which saw last year’s final moved to Germany.