Final in the theater of nerves

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Manchester United and Villarreal meet again four months after their confrontation in Gdansk with a penalty shootout. And although life has changed a lot for both of them, the mood is still similar to that of the hangover. Solskjaer’s team, loser in that Europa League final, has Cristiano (almost one goal per game), but accumulates three hard defeats in Champions (Young Boys), Cup (West Ham) and Premier (Aston Villa) that they have made jump the alarms. Those of Emery, winners of their first title on that historic night, have managed to keep several pillars, strengthen themselves with category and, despite a shower of draws at the start, plant something more than face Chelsea, Atlético, Atalanta and Real Madrid . This time, despite the difference in the box and in the display cases, it is no longer a duel between David and Goliath. Balanced forces, we are facing a great match with a rematch and two roosters in between (follow the meeting live on

At Old Trafford there will be more than tension. Although they already fell out of the Champions League in the 2020-21 campaign, United have qualified for the knockout rounds 18 times, breaking a record in England. Not going to the second round this time, after his hit in Switzerland, would have a self-destructive effect for the champion of 1968, 1999 and 2008, and finalist in 2009 and 2011. By investment and by squad. Cristiano (13 goals in 19 games against Villarreal), Varane, De Gea, Mata and Bailly are just the best known faces to the Spanish fans for their time in LaLiga. The rest are even scarier. That Sancho can be a substitute again if Pogba falls to the band is enough to understand that United is a constellation. Maguire’s discharge gives Shaw a life. United’s great hope will be the return of the can opener it needs: Cavani.

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But this could only scare a newbie. This Villarreal shrinks already on rare occasions. At the Bernabéu he showed it again last Saturday. If it weren’t for Courtois, I’d still be celebrating. He never lost against United (five draws), now he has 26 undefeated matches against non-Spanish rivals (16 wins and ten draws) and has players who already know the atmosphere that is breathed on the stage of this second European day: Foyth, Capoue, Alberto Moreno, Coquelin, Parejo and Danjuma were members of the Premier.

The cross is that Gerard does not arrive on time. The face, that Alcácer recovers the stripes and the focus, with the permission of Yeremy and Danjuma, the two yellow players who walk these days finer. Trigueros will return to an eleven in which it is not ruled out that some tapdao protects the center of the field more. The unknown is what Emery will do in goal before the entry and exit dance. Rulli seems to be taking a wheel out of Asenjo again. With one or the other, victory is urgent. And not just because of its immediate effect on the rankings. Although Villarreal does not know defeat this season, they have only managed one win in eight games. If United is overwhelmed, the Submarine navigates restlessly through the sea. The Theater of Dreams will be the theater of nerves.

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