We are reaching the end of this season and, inevitably, teams around Europe and worldwide are preparing themselves for the summer transfer window. The focus for many will be on exciting prospects and young talents from around the globe. Here is a list of 13 talented African footballers who are going to be high on […]
In a season full of 1-1 draws, Manchester United got arguably their most important one against Celta Vigo to go through 2-1 on aggregate in the Europa League semi final. Marouane Fellaini’s first half goal means they will be in the final on May 24th against Ajax in Stockholm’s Friends Arena.
1 – Manchester United have reached the final of the Europa League/UEFA Cup for the first time in their history. Collection. pic.twitter.com/rhpRLKY27h
— OptaJoe (@OptaJoe) May 11, 2017
As United celebrate and Celta commiserate here are five main talking points from an intriguing match…
Could the bench hint at summer transfer plans?
The Manchester United bench for this one read: David De Gea, Phil Jones, Michael Carrick, Juan Mata, Wayne Rooney, Antony Martial. For one reason or another, all have questions about their futures ahead of the summer, and it would be no surprise to see all of them shipped out (if Mourinho can find replacements).
Carrick is out of contract, Rooney out of favour – and long linked with a move to China, the MLS, or back to Everton – De Gea’s long flirtation with Real Madrid could finally come to fruition, and Mourinho’s annoyance with Martial’s sub-par form and the injury troubles of Smalling and Jones are well know.
Mata? Well, he’s been sold before by the Portuguese, he would probably be more than willing to see the back of him again should it generate more money for incoming deals. Perhaps those players all sitting this one out is a sign of things to come.
Will Romero ever be a number 1?
Sergio Romero is a curious goalkeeper. The 30-year-old has been Argentina’s first choice for a while, but in recent seasons he has featured irregularly for Sampdoria, Monaco and now Manchester United.
He has proved to be reliable when called upon – and he could do little about Facundo Roncaglia’s equalising goal. He has conceded only 6 goals in 16 appearances across all competitions so far this season, but it still hasn’t been enough to dislodge the excellent David De Gea. United have been linked with several top keepers should the Spaniard leave, which suggests that Romero might need to get used to life as a back-up.
John Guidetti has never quite fulfilled his potential
It wasn’t so long ago that John Guidetti was one of Europe’s hottest young prospects, but all the same it can feel like a trick of the mind that he once scored 20 goals in 23 games for Feyenoord. The Swede – then on loan from Manchester City – impressed in Rotterdam but failed to replicate that in subsequent loan moves to Stoke City and Celtic.
He has done quite well for Celta, but failing to get into double figures for goals during either of the two seasons he’s been there tells its own story. Guidetti was anonymous for long stretches in this game, though he did spurn a golden headed chance with 15 minutes to go.
It got worse in the final seconds, with an air shot when unmarked in the box that would have put Celta in the final. It came at the end of a move that promised much but didn’t deliver – perhaps an apt summary of the 25-year-old’s post-Feyenoord years.
IT. WAS. THAT. CLOSE!
Former Man City man John Guidetti fluffs his lines with six seconds left as United are let off the hook! 😳 pic.twitter.com/Q0ds7UucdT
— BT Sport Football (@btsportfootball) May 11, 2017
Antonio Valencia is Manchester United’s Mr. Reliable
One of the problems faced by United this season has been an ever-changing backline. There has been much chopping and changing to the back four, partly due to injuries and partly due to Mourinho’s uncertainty about whether the likes of Luke Shaw, Daley Blind and Matteo Darmian can be trusted to produce good performances regularly. Eric Bailly’s late red card now means there will be more changes for the final.
Amid all the uncertainty, Antonio Valencia has been a model of consistency. Hands up who thought the 31-year-old former winger would turn into their most reliable defender?
Valencia has featured at right back 36 times in all competitions this year, compared to just four in his former role out wide in midfield. He was his usual self in this game, motoring up and down the right flank and supporting the attack when possible. There may be a rebuilding job ahead of Mourinho in the summer, but he will surely be content with Valencia – who captained the side here – as his right back.
Celta Vigo leave it too late to show their quality
After that performance Celta’s fans will be wondering why they waited so long to show what they can do. They offered so little in the home leg that many thought this would be a stroll in the park for their more illustrious opponents. But it was not so.
The Spanish side had more shots (both on and off target), corners and possession than the home team, but could not translate that into victory. They will rue the fact that they didn’t turn up until the second leg – when they were already losing on aggregate – and then didn’t find the net until the 85th minute.
5 – Five of Celta Vigo's 11 away goals in the Europa League this season have come in the 80th minute or later. Drama.
— OptaJoe (@OptaJoe) May 11, 2017
The result sets up a final between the European heavyweights of Manchester United and Ajax. Mourinho – having staked Champions League qualification on winning the Europa League – will certainly be desperate to win it.
— UEFA Europa League (@EuropaLeague) May 11, 2017