Ole Gunnar Solskjaer will be licking his lips at the prospect of winning a first trophy as Manchester United manager ahead of the Europa League final against Villarreal.
The Norwegian will forever be etched into United folklore for his late winner in the 1999 Champions League final against Bayern Munich, and now he wants to relive that same euphoria in the dugout.
Standing in the way of Solskjaer is a Europa League specialist in the shape of Unai Emery, leading Sevilla to three consecutive wins in the competition in 2014, 2015 and 2016, while also steering former side Arsenal to the final in 2019.
The showpiece final in Gdansk – which is LIVE on talkSPORT – represents a big chance for United to show they are heading in the ‘right direction’, according to Solskjaer.
“You always feel pressure to win things at Manchester United. Progress in the league shows progress. The next step is to win trophies and challenge in the Premier League as well,” Solskjaer said.
“Winning a trophy can give you belief but it can make you hungry for more. When you win things you just want to win more, you want to feel that sensation again of lifting trophies.
“I know my players will believe they can win it and that we can move on to better things, but when you get that taste of the first one, that’s a big step in the right direction.”
It it also a chance for Luke Shaw to put his cup misery behind him, having incredibly missed the last FIVE finals as a Manchester United player – three owing to injury.
The England left-back was absent from the 2016 FA Cup final against Crystal Palace through injury, as the Red Devils ran out 2-1 winners at Wembley.
Shaw went on to miss three finals the following year, a 3-2 Carabao Cup win over Southampton, a 2-1 defeat by Real Madrid in the UEFA Super Cup and a 2-0 victory over Ajax in the Europa League.
And he was also absent from the team which lost 1-0 to Premier League rivals Chelsea in the 2018 FA Cup final.
Shaw is back now though – and has vowed to make up for lost time.
“In big games at big times are big opportunities to show yourself and I feel like I missed out on them,” he said.
Solskjaer is unlikely to have skipper Harry Maguire at his disposal, who has been sidelined since suffering ligament damage during United’s 3-1 win at Aston Villa on May 9.
The 28-year-old defender sat out training on the eve of the Europa League final as faint hopes of the Manchester United captain leading the side out against Villarreal were all but extinguished.
As it stands the United boss is preparing for the game without Maguire, who has been named in Gareth Southgate’s 33-man provisional England squad for Euro 2020.
“Of course [Maguire] wants to play,” Solskjaer said. “It’s going to be up to the doctor to say how he is, but I don’t expect him to be ready.
“It doesn’t look great, but ever the optimist, I’m still hopeful.”
Many expect United to overcome the challenge of Villarreal – including none other than talkSPORT’s Andy Goldstein.
But the Spanish side’s astonishing record of 12 wins and two draws in their 14 Europa League matches so far suggests they are not your typical underdog.
Axel Tuanzebe or Eric Bailly will partner Victor Lindelof at centre-back if Maguire isn’t passed match fit, but what will the rest of Solskjaer’s team look like? talkSPORT.com takes a look.
How Manchester United could look against Villarreal – (4-2-3-1)
Dean Henderson has overtaken David De Gea as the club’s no.1, but with the latter taking over cup duties it is expected the Spaniard will start this one.
Aaron Wan-Bissaka and the aforementioned Shaw will start in the two full-back roles, while either Tuanzebe or Bailly will play if Maguire is missing.
Meanwhile, Fred and Scott McTominay are expected to be fit to line up in the two holding roles, despite nursing slight injuries.
Further ahead, Bruno Fernandes, Paul Pogba and Edinson Cavani are near guaranteed starters, with the latter in excellent form in the semi-final win.
Across both legs against Roma he scored four goals and created two.
Mason Greenwood’s impressive recent form means Marcus Rashford could well have to make do with a place on the bench, with Pogba edging ahead of the latter on the left.
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