Manchester United vs Celta Vigo – Thursday 20:05BST/21:05CEST – Old Trafford, Manchester.
Thanks to a beautiful free kick by Marcus Rashford Manchester United are in the driver’s seat to reach the Europa League final in Stockholm later this month. The final in Stockholm could indeed become the only viable road to a place in the UEFA Champions League next season.
Manchester United were dreadful this weekend against an Arsenal side that has been struggling all season. United ended up losing the game 2-0 in what was the first defeat by Manchester United’s manager José Mourinho against his long-standing rival Arséne Wenger.
The result leaves United with almost no realistic hope to finish the English Premier League in the top four, and therefore qualify for the UEFA Champions League. It was, therefore, no surprise that Mourinho, who has been previously negative about the Europa League as a competition, has identified the Europa League as the only way to return to Europe’s elite.
In their way will be as Spanish side, which despite their defeat in Vigo, will do everything to reach the final that will take place in Stockholm themselves. Celta Vigo were somewhat out of depth in the first leg and were finally undone by Rashford’s free-kick.
Stuck in mid-table in La Liga Celta Vigo have been resting players, and focusing on the Europa League instead. With this in mind, it might be still too early to write of the Spanish club. Especially, considering the track record of Spanish teams in European competitions in recent years. Furthermore, Celta Vigo have shown in this tournament that they can overcome home defeats. In the round of 32, Celta came behind from a 1-0 loss suffered to Shakhtar Donetsk only to overturn it in the second leg in Ukraine. Hence, it would not be a major surprise if Celta Vigo manage to overturn the 1-0 defeat suffered by Manchester United away at Old Trafford.
Manchester United vs Celta Vigo – Players to look out for:
Henrikh Mkhitaryan #22 – Manchester United
Henrikh Mkhitaryan was arguably the best player in the Bundesliga last season, and his performances with Borussia Dortmund earned the Armenian a €42 million transfer to Manchester United. Often considered an afterthought by manager José Mourinho at the beginning of the season Mkhitaryan struggled to make his mark on English football. Many of course would remember that Mkhitaryan is a sensitive soul, who needs time to gel with teammates at a new club. Hence, it took some time for Mkhitaryan to get used to his new surroundings, and the attacking midfielder’s numbers have improved in the last half of the season. With injuries to Ibrahimović, and Wayne Rooney looking to rediscover his form Mkhitaryan could be the key to Manchester’s success against Celta Vigo.
Iago Aspas #10 – Celta Vigo
Iago Aspas is both familiar with English football, and the Europa League. The striker won the Europa League with Sevilla in 2015. He then joined Liverpool FC, but his stint in England ended in disappointment after just one season. Joining Celta Vigo in the summer of 2015 Aspas has quickly overcome his disappointment in England by becoming Celta’s most prolific striker. This season Aspas has managed 17 goals, and four assists, in 29 La Liga games, as well as five goals, and two assists, in ten Europa League games. With Aspas in top form, all season Manchester United will have to do well to keep the Spaniard of the score sheet.
Manchester United vs Celta Vigo – Match Stats
- Celta’s record in ten matches against English sides is W5 D0 L5 (W2 D0 L3 in Vigo – W3 D0 L2 in England).
- United’s record in 48 meetings with Spanish teams is W13 D19 L16 (W9 D9 L4 in Manchester – W3 D10 L10 in Spain).
- Those ties include three European finals held on neutral territory (W1 L2).
- United have not lost in their last nine UEFA Europa League games (W7 D2).
- United are striving for the only UEFA club trophy that has so far eluded them. This is their first semi-final in the UEFA Cup or UEFA Europa League.
Prediction: Manchester United vs Celta Vigo 1-2
Romero – Shaw, Blind, Bailly, Valencia – Herrera, Pogba – Martial, Mata, Mkhitaryan – Rashford
Coach: José Mourinho
Álvarez – Roncaglia, Fontás, Gómez, Lemos – Díaz, Sánchez – Bongonda, Hjulsager – Guidetti, Aspas
Coach: Eduardo Berizzo