Having been postponed by almost five months, the Europa League resumed earlier this month, with the second leg of the Round of 16 ties and Quarter-finals already played in two weeks’ time. Manchester United have secured a place in the Europa League Semi-final, having beaten Austrian side LASK 7-1 on aggregate in the Round of 16 and defeated Danish side Copenhagen 1-0 in the Quarter-final. The Red Devils are understandably the favourites to lift the trophy in the latest UEFA Europa League odds.
Ahead of the Europa League re-commencing, UEFA announced the four stadiums that will be hosting the rest of the tournament – Koln’s RheinEnergieStadion, Duisburg’s MSV-Arena, Fortuna Dusseldorf’s Merkur Spiel-Arena, and Schalke’s Arena AufSchalke. The Europa League governing body decided on this to eliminate any chance of home advantage, with fixtures being played behind closed doors. However, United played their second-leg tie of the Round of 16 against LASK at the Theatre of Dreams.
Given the draws for the remaining stages of the competition, there’s no doubt that Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s side have the easier path to the final. After beating LASK, United travelled to Cologne for their Quarter-final tie against FC Copenhagen, overcoming the Danish side 1-0 after an energy-sapping 120 minutes.
Manchester United next face Spanish side Sevilla in the Europa League Semi-final. Of course, an all-English semi-final would have been a tasty prospect – with both of United’s Premier League fixtures against Wolverhampton Wanderers ending in draws, but Sevilla prevailed over the Midlands club with a late winner from Lucas Ocampos.
Managing to avoid the likes of Bayer Leverkusen (who beat Rangers 4-1 on aggregate in the Round of 16) and Inter Milan (who defeated Spanish side Getafe 2-0 in a one-legged tie), who are both on the other side of the split, makes the road to the final a bit easier for United – although there’s always the chance that an underdog could prevail, given Sevilla are the definitive specialists in the Europa League. Moreover, on the other side of the split, Inter Milan beat Bayer Leverkusen 2-1 to progress to the Semi-final.
Since the season restarted, bar a 3-1 semi-final defeat to Chelsea in the FA Cup, United have turned the screw and ended the Premier League campaign unbeaten (in 14 matches). Solskjaer’s side ended with a top-three finish and assured Champions League football next term.
United have been deadly in front of goal, also keeping countless clean sheets and when it comes to Europe, they’ll fear no-one. Their goal-scoring prowess in Europe has been there for all to see – five goals in the first-leg against LASK, a further five in their second-leg Round of 32 fixture against Club Brugge, and 10 goals in the group stage to finish top of Group L, with Bruno, Rashford and Martial firing on all cylinders.
Cologne is calling again and while there’s no doubt that the United fans would love to win the Europa League trophy for the second time in four years, the first taste of silverware in English football for Solskjaer as a manager would be even more sweet – and a testament to the turnaround he’s made at the club.