Ole Gunnar Solskjaer believes Jadon Sancho has made the perfect step at the right time in his career, as he believes Manchester United's latest addition can showcase 'untapped talent' at Old Trafford.

United's long pursuit of Sancho has resulted in a deal that Stats Perform understands is worth £72.9million (€85m), making him the fourth most expensive signing in the club's history, behind Paul Pogba, Harry Maguire and Romelu Lukaku.

The 21-year-old, who left United's rivals Manchester City to join Borussia Dortmund in 2017, has signed until 2026 with an option for a further year.

Sancho scored 50 goals and provided 57 assists in 137 appearances across all competitions for BVB, with only Erling Haaland and Marco Reus having scored more since the winger made his debut.

In 104 Bundesliga appearances, Sancho netted 38 times, averaging a goal every 197 minutes, bettering the totals of the wide players he has joined at United in Marcus Rashford, Anthony Martial, Mason Greenwood and Daniel James.

Having secured a long-term target – Sancho was the subject of much speculation in 2020 – Solskjaer hailed the England international as the ideal player to bring into United's squad.

"Jadon epitomises the type of player I want to bring to the club, he is a forward player in the best traditions of Manchester United," Solskjaer told the club's official website.

"He will form an integral part of my squad for years to come and we look forward to seeing him blossom. His goals and assists records speak for themselves and he will also bring tremendous pace, flair and creativity to the team. 

"Old Trafford will give him the platform he needs to release his untapped talent and perform at the highest level. For a player of his age, Jadon has already achieved a great deal and showed the courage to go and prove himself abroad. We all look forward to welcoming Jadon to the squad as we prepare for the new campaign."

For his part, Sancho – who came through Watford's academy before moving to City at the age of 14 – explained it was always his plan to return to the Premier League.

He said: "I'll always be grateful to Dortmund for giving me the opportunity to play first team football, although I always knew that I would return to England one day.

"The chance to join Manchester United is a dream come true and I just cannot wait to perform in the Premier League. This is a young and exciting squad and I know, together, we can develop into something special to bring the success that the fans deserve. I am looking forward to working with the manager and his coaching team to further develop my game."

Sancho also thanked Dortmund directly, telling the Bundesliga club's official website: "I can't thank the people in charge at Borussia Dortmund enough for the chance they gave me as a very young player. 

"At BVB I was able to mature into the player I am today. The DFB-Pokal win last season was a great end to my time at BVB. But I will always remember the support and love of the incredible fans as something special."

Manchester United have not yet decided if Marcus Rashford requires surgery despite reports to the contrary.

Recent media speculation suggested United and Rashford had come to the decision that the England international needed an operation to fix a long-standing shoulder issue.

Rashford is said to have been struggling with the problem since at least November, while it has also been claimed he has not been truly injury free in two years.

Were Rashford to have surgery, it is thought he would be out at least until October, forcing him to miss a significant amount of football at the start of 2021-22.

But Solskjaer is adamant a decision is yet to be made.

"No, we're looking at the best options," Solskjaer said after United's 2-1 friendly win over Derby County when asked if surgery was definitely in the offing for Rashford.

"Of course, he went away just to reflect on it a little bit. We have to take the best course of action for him and the club.

"We're still addressing that with the experts."

While Rashford's involvement in the early weeks of the season is in some doubt, Jesse Lingard looks set to play a part for United.

Lingard spent the second half of 2020-21 on loan at West Ham and found some spectacular form, scoring nine goals and setting up another four in 16 Premier League outings for the Hammers.

That form forced him back into England contention, and although he was ultimately cut from Gareth Southgate's final selection for Euro 2020, it was evidence that perhaps his United career was not over as many would have suggested in January.

West Ham have been credited with a desire to bring him back to the London Stadium, though for the time being he will be remaining at Old Trafford.

"Jesse has come back, he's been bright and he wants to fight for his place," Solskjaer said. "There's nothing better than seeing players willing to fight for their place. Of course, what he did towards the end of the season, that is the true Jesse.

"That's what we know he is capable of. I think we saw towards the end [of our own season] that we lacked maybe some options at times."

Facundo Pellistri seems set to depart on loan again, however. The Uruguayan winger, 20, scored the winning goal for United on Sunday in a generally encouraging second-half outing, but Solskjaer expects him to leave temporarily having spent part of 2020-21 with Deportivo Alaves.

"I thought he was bright and he took his goal really well," Solskjaer said. "Great first touch, good pass by Shola [Shoretire], but great first touch with sets him up.

"It was a very good goal, the first touch set him up and he's very good at dribbling so going past the goalkeeper wasn't a problem. He was bright when he came on.

"I think he showed what he is because he's a difficult player to play against. One against one he can go past people so very pleased with him.

"I can see a loan deal for him, there's been loads of interest and for his best interests a loan would be what we look for."

Jadon Sancho's proposed move to Manchester United is seemingly close to being confirmed after Ole Gunnar Solskjaer suggested only "small details" are preventing an announcement.

United revealed a deal had been agreed with Borussia Dortmund for the transfer of Sancho at the end of June, with Stats Perform understanding the fee involved to be £72.9million.

That will make the England international United's fourth most expensive player after Paul Pogba, Harry Maguire and Romelu Lukaku.

United, who had been keen on Sancho last year, said at the time that the winger's medical and personal terms would be completed after his involvement in Euro 2020.

England's run to the final subsequently delayed completion of the deal, though Solskjaer suggested it will not be long now until United announce him as their new player.

Speaking after United's 2-1 friendly win over Wayne Rooney's Derby County on Sunday, Solskjaer said: "From what I understand only paperwork [is preventing completion], small, little details, hopefully we can announce something.

 

"Let's get all the paperwork done and get him over the line and then I can say what I truly feel about the player."

Having joined Dortmund in 2017, Sancho scored 50 goals and provided 57 assists in 137 appearances across all competitions for BVB.

Solskjaer will be hoping to have Sancho among his attacking options for United's opening Premier League game against Leeds United at Old Trafford on August 14.

Sancho is the only player from Europe's top five leagues to have scored 10 goals or more and had at least 15 assists across all competitions in each of the past three seasons while playing at that high level.

Facundo Pellistri got the decisive goal as Manchester United began their pre-season preparations with a 2-1 win over Wayne Rooney's Derby County.

United great Rooney took over from Phillip Cocu in November and was managing against his former club for the first time.

It was, understandably, an unfamiliar-looking United side, however. With numerous players yet to return after Euro 2020 and the Copa America, and several set to feature at the Olympics, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer was without 16 players.

As such, Tom Heaton started in goal following his return to the club, and he made an important save from point-blank range just before the end of a first half that was made to look like something of a struggle due to the heat.

Nevertheless, United held a 1-0 lead at the interval as Tahith Chong – who is set to go on loan to Derby's Championship rivals Birmingham City – seized on a defensive error and bundled in from close range after seeing his initial chip attempt blocked back on to him.

Solskjaer made as many as nine changes at the break, with Axel Tuanzebe and Teden Mengi the only players to remain in the team. Jesse Lingard, Andreas Pereira, Nemanja Matic, Lee Grant and Alex Telles were among those to come into the side, with several youngsters also involved.

Two of the young hopefuls combined to put United 2-0 up.

Shola Shoretire – who became United's youngest ever player in European competition back in February – sliced through the defence with a clever throughball and Pellistri coolly rounded the goalkeeper before tucking home.

Colin Kazim-Richards pulled one back for Derby from distance, but Pellistri's well-taken goal was enough to give United a winning start to their pre-season

Marcus Rashford will come back stronger following his penalty miss against Italy and will not be put off from taking spot-kicks for Manchester United, according to Ole Gunnar Solskjaer.

The 23-year-old was one of three England players to fail to convert from 12 yards in Sunday's Euro 2020 final shoot-out loss to Italy, clipping the post with his attempt at Wembley.

Rashford, along with Jadon Sancho and Bukayo Saka, have all suffered racist abuse on social media, prompting an angry response from the Football Association, UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson and Three Lions manager Gareth Southgate.

A mural of Rashford in Manchester was defaced after the game, though supporters have since covered the graffiti with positive messages for the United academy product, who posted an emotional thank you message on social media on Monday.

United boss Solskjaer understands Rashford's disappointment at missing a penalty in such a crucial game and has praised the forward for stepping forward in the first place in such a high-pressure situation.

"You know the thing is when you step up to take a penalty, I think you've already won," Solskjaer told United's official website on Tuesday. "You've taken on the responsibility and I'm sure many of the players are hoping I don't want to take a penalty.

"So I think it’s a great character trait to step up and say I will deal with it, and the consequences. You might be the hero or the one who misses. That's football.  You learn from it and definitely come back stronger.

"I've not seen many people, at this club anyway, who lay down and say I'll not take a penalty anymore. I know Marcus is going to put his hand up and say he wants to take one for us."

England have now won just two of their nine major tournament shoot-outs, with that 22 per cent win rate the lowest of any European national team to have been involved in three or more.

Luke Shaw had earlier given England the lead at Wembley with a volley after one minute and 57 seconds, making it the earliest goal ever scored in a European Championship final, before Leonardo Bonucci equalised to take the game the distance.

Full-back Shaw also racked up three assists, his four goal involvements across the tournament being bettered only by the Czech Republic's Patrik Schick (five) and Portugal superstar Cristiano Ronaldo (six).

He also enjoyed a good campaign at club level in 2020-21 and Solskjaer is pleased to see the defender add goals and assists to his game.

"I'm so happy for Luke," Solskjaer said. "I was watching it and thinking 'what's just happened?' He started the attack and we've encouraged him to get into the last third.

"We know how technically gifted he is and skilful he is and he hit the ball very, very sweetly. 

"He keeps his eye on the ball, straight laces and it's margins again – off the post and in, not off the post and out. That's football for you. Luke deserves all the luck he can get. He's had a tremendous couple of years with us."

Solskjaer knows all too well about the disappointment of losing a shoot-out, with United having suffered heartbreak at the hands of Villarreal in May's Europa League final.

"Obviously, we know the feeling the whole of England had after the game," the Norwegian added. 

"One kick decides the whole mood. An even game, maybe Italy bossed possession a little bit, of course, but when it comes to penalty shoot-outs, anything can happen, as we know from our own last game.

"It's hard on the boys but that's football sometimes. You just have to deal with it and move on. I know the whole atmosphere in the country has been so great and, of course, it's an anti-climax. I know that."

Gareth Southgate and Ole Gunnar Solskjaer are benefiting from Jose Mourinho's "hard-line" approach to managing Luke Shaw at Manchester United.

That is according to former England boss Steve McClaren, who believes the United full-back's strong recent form owes much to the lessons he learned under his former manager.

Shaw started just 17 Premier League games out of a possible 76 during Mourinho's two full seasons at Old Trafford and was a regular target for criticism from his boss throughout.

Disagreements between the pair have not subsided since the latter's departure from United, either, with his punditry during Euro 2020 prompting their most recent war of words.

However, McClaren is convinced that Shaw's improved performances for club and country over the past 12 months are a consequence of the tough love he received from Mourinho.

He told Stats Perform: "The key relationship is always the player and the manager. Whenever you move clubs, whenever you go to a new situation, internationals, whatever. 

"Maybe Shaw was in a moment also in his career where he needed Jose Mourinho’s management – maybe everybody's [previously] accepted [his behaviour]. 

"And maybe you come with a hard-line manager who won't accept this, won't accept that. And this player needs teaching and this player needs the hard line. 

"Unfortunately, you're the manager that suffers because of that. Because Shaw’s probably been through that and is a more mature, more professional, and a better player.

"Who's benefiting? The manager after, which is Ole and which is now Southgate with England. 

"So, it's a journey for a player and you always want a manager that likes you and loves you, plays you. 

"Sometimes you don't [have that] and that teaches you lessons that stay with you when you do come to a manager who does like [you], you love and you will play."

Shaw's recent renaissance at international level has come under the guidance of one of McClaren's former charges in Southgate.

This year, the England boss has backed up leading his country to a World Cup semi-final by helping them to the same stage of Euro 2020, prompting a nation to dream that glory could lie ahead.

And that success has come as no surprise to McClaren, who believes the Three Lions are being coached by a man who has always shown a knack for leadership and bringing people together.

He said: "I remember signing him as my first signing for Middlesbrough. [He was] an important signing and I wanted a captain, I wanted a leader in the dressing room, and I bought him for leadership. 

"He epitomised exactly what I wanted in the dressing room and on the field. One, he was a winner. He’d proven that at Aston Villa and England – he was a winner, he wanted to win. 

"Number two, he was so professional. And that's what I wanted. That was the main thing. Gareth always did the right thing every day: first in, then last away, fantastic professional. 

"And the third and most important thing was as a leader in the dressing room. He brought people together. We had a lot of foreign players, a lot of cliques in that dressing room at Middlesbrough. 

"And he would mix with them all. I always remember dinner times, lunch times, breakfast, whatever meetings we had, the cliques would always sit on one table and everyone would always sit on one side, which was fine. 

"But every meal-time Gareth used to flit from one table to the other. And he used to mix with everybody, he knew the importance of the squad, the team sticking together. 

"And that's what he's brought to England. The key thing for me is it's like England's like a club side in the present moment.

"I think being the Under-21 coach for that many years, he's had all these players, he knows them inside out. He's got a story with every one of them. 

"He knows the best ones, he knows the characters, knows what will gel, he's brought them into the England team, grown up with them really. And now they're like a club side. 

"And that's what's driving it for us."

Manchester United host Leeds United on the opening weekend of the Premier League season as Ole Gunnar Solskjaer aims to go one better than last season's second-place finish behind Manchester City.

The Red Devils won the corresponding fixture against Marcelo Bielsa's men 6-2 last season and they might fancy their chances of making a strong start this time around.

An October 23 meeting with Liverpool at Old Trafford is United's first of the campaign against a fellow "big six" side, although they will go on to face Tottenham, City, Chelsea and Arsenal before the end of November.

United have won three and drawn one of the past four Manchester derbies in the Premier League and are at the Etihad Stadium on March 5 after City travel across town on November 6.

Newcastle United away followed by back-to-back home games against Burnley and Wolves comprise a favourable-looking festive period from December 26 – January 1.

The always-anticipated trip to Anfield arrives on March 19, while United's last home game of the season is a potentially crunch clash with European champions Chelsea before a final-day trip to Crystal Palace.

Manchester United's 2021-22 fixtures in full:

14/08/2021 - Leeds United (h)
21/08/2021 - Southampton (a)
28/08/2021 - Wolves (a)
11/09/2021 - Newcastle United (h)
18/09/2021 - West Ham (a)
25/09/2021 - Aston Villa (h)
02/10/2021 - Everton (h)
16/10/2021 - Leicester City (a)
23/10/2021 - Liverpool (h)
30/10/2021 - Tottenham (a)
06/11/2021 - Manchester City (h)
20/11/2021 - Watford (a)
27/11/2021 - Chelsea (a)
30/11/2021 - Arsenal (h)
04/12/2021 - Crystal Palace (h)
11/12/2021 - Norwich City (a)
14/12/2021 - Brentford (a)
18/12/2021 - Brighton and Hove Albion (h)
26/12/2021 - Newcastle United (a)
28/12/2021 - Burnley (h)
01/01/2022 - Wolves (h)
15/01/2022 - Aston Villa (a)
22/01/2022 - West Ham (h)
08/02/2022 - Burnley (a)
12/02/2022 - Southampton (h)
19/02/2022 - Leeds United (a)
26/02/2022 - Watford (h)
05/03/2022 - Manchester City (a)
12/03/2022 - Tottenham (h)
19/03/2022 - Liverpool (a)
02/04/2022 - Leicester City (h)
09/04/2022 - Everton (a)
16/04/2022 - Norwich City (h)
23/04/2022 - Arsenal (a)
30/04/2022 - Brentford (h)
07/05/2022 - Brighton and Hove Albion (a)
15/05/2022 - Chelsea (h)
22/05/2022 - Crystal Palace (a)

Manchester City will begin their Premier League title defence at Tottenham.

Pep Guardiola's side won their third top-flight crown in four seasons in 2020-21 and there is likely to be plenty of intrigue in the build-up to the August 14 encounter at Tottenham Hotspur Stadium, given Spurs striker Harry Kane has been touted as a potential replacement for Sergio Aguero.

Chelsea denied City European glory with a 1-0 win in last month's Champions League final and Thomas Tuchel's side start their bid to unseat Guardiola's men domestically by hosting Crystal Palace, who like Spurs remain without a manager.

Manchester United were runners-up last term and Ole Gunnar Solskjaer's third full season in charge will launch with a mouth-watering clash against Marcelo Bielsa's Leeds United at Old Trafford.

Newly promoted Brentford have a similarly eye-catching assignment at home to Arsenal, who have no European commitments for the first time since 1995-96.

Liverpool are also away to one of the newcomers in the form of Championship winners Norwich City, while Watford host Aston Villa on their top-flight return.

Tricky start for Guardiola, Tuchel facing January Blues

City claimed a first victory at Anfield since 2003 last season and Jurgen Klopp will enjoy his latest battle with Pep Guardiola on Merseyside on October 2, a week after the champions get their shot at revenge over Chelsea at Stamford Bridge.

Those matches all come within City's first seven fixtures, which also include Arsenal visiting the Etihad Stadium on August 28, the same day Chelsea travel to Liverpool and a week after Mikel Arteta's men welcome the European champions.

The season's first Manchester United v Liverpool encounter comes at Old Trafford on October 23, two weeks before United host City in the Manchester derby.

The return meetings for those two rivalries are at Anfield on March 19 and the Etihad Stadium on March 5.

Those games could prove key to the title run-in, much like Chelsea's trip to Old Trafford on the penultimate weekend.

The Blues have a tough January schedule, with Liverpool at Stamford Bridge on New Year's Day, followed by City away a fortnight later and a home derby against Tottenham.

Spurs and Arsenal are each aiming to improve upon dispiriting campaigns last time around. The first north London derby of the season is at Emirates Stadium on September 25, with Tottenham hosting their neighbours on January 15.

 

Premier League opening weekend fixtures
Brentford v Arsenal
Burnley v Brighton and Hove Albion
Chelsea v Crystal Palace
Everton v Southampton
Leicester City v Wolves
Manchester United v Leeds United
Newcastle United v West Ham 
Norwich City v Liverpool
Tottenham v Manchester City
Watford v Aston Villa

Is David de Gea's time at Manchester United coming to an end?

De Gea has spent a decade with the Red Devils but his form has been scrutinised in recent years.

A swap involving Atletico Madrid goalkeeper Jan Oblak could solve United's problems.

 

TOP STORY – DE GEA OUT, OBLAK IN?

Manchester United are lining up a swap deal involving star goalkeeper David de Gea and Atletico Madrid's Jan Oblak, according to The Sun.

De Gea's future has been uncertain since Dean Henderson signed a long-term contract extension at United, who remain uncertain about the pair.

Spain international De Gea joined United from Atletico in 2011 and the Red Devils are prepared to offer the LaLiga giants a reunion in exchange for star Oblak.

 

ROUND-UP

- TV3 reports Barcelona have offered Lionel Messi a new contract. Messi's current deal is due to expire on June 30 and the superstar captain has been linked with Manchester City and Paris Saint-Germain.

Saul Niguez is adamant he wants to leave LaLiga champions Atletico and Juventus lead the race to sign the Spaniard, claims Marca. United – long-term admirers – Bayern Munich and PSG are also interested.

- PSG head coach Mauricio Pochettino is the favourite to replace Zinedine Zidane at Real Madrid, says the front page of Friday's Mundo Deportivo. Zidane has announced his departure. Former Inter boss Antonio Conte, Castilla coach and club great Raul and Xabi Alonso – currently in charge of Real Sociedad's reserve side – are also on the list. Pochettino has also been linked with a sensational return to Tottenham.

Barca have held talks regarding goalkeeper Gianluigi Donnarumma, according to Fabrizio Romano. Donnarumma's Milan contract is due to expire and his departure is already confirmed. After talking with agent Mino Raiola, Barca are set to decide whether to sign Donnarumma, who has also been linked with Juve and United.

- Premier League champions City are looking to smash their transfer record to bring in £100million-rated Aston Villa captain Jack Grealish, reports the Daily Mail. City are also interested in Tottenham's Harry Kane – a target for rivals United, Chelsea, Madrid and Barca.

- The Telegraph says United manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer is set to sign a new three-year contract in Manchester. Solskjaer guided United to a second-placed finish in the Premier League, while the club were stunned by Villarreal in the Europa League final this season.

Barca are close to completing free transfers for Liverpool midfielder Georginio Wijnaldum and Lyon star Memphis Depay, according to Mundo Deportivo. Ronald Koeman's men are also eyeing City's free agent pair Sergio Aguero and Eric Garcia.

- FootMercato reports PSG have made an approach for star Milan full-back Theo Hernandez.

Chelsea and Tottenham both have strong interest in Borussia Monchengladbach attacker Jonas Hofmann, claims Sport1.

Manchester United manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer identified his side's need to bolster their starting XI with two or three signings following their Europa League final defeat.

United lost 11-10 to Villarreal on penalties in Wednesday's decider in Gdansk after a 1-1 draw across 120 minutes – the Red Devils ending their 2020-21 season without a trophy.

Solskjaer's United have lost six of their last seven penalty shoot-outs in all competitions, only winning against Rochdale in the EFL Cup in September 2019 during that time.

Edinson Cavani – who cancelled out Gerard Moreno's first-half opener in the 55th minute – became just the third player aged 34 or above to score in a major European final for an English club, after Gary McAllister (36) for Liverpool in the UEFA Cup final against Deportivo Alaves in 2000-01 and Didier Drogba (34) for Chelsea in the Champions League final versus Bayern Munich in 2011-12.

Premier League giants United – who finished second behind neighbours Manchester City this term – have not won any silverware since 2017 and have been linked with a host of players to bolster their squad this off-season, including Tottenham star Harry Kane, Borussia Dortmund's Jadon Sancho and Villarreal centre-back Pau Torres.

"We've done as well as anyone could imagine," Solskjaer said during his post-game news conference. "We need to do better, we need to work better, harder, cleverer.

"Two or three players to strengthen the starting XI is important for us to go even further. I'm sure our contenders, challengers will also want to improve as well."

David de Gea's selection in the United XI was hotly debated, with competition from Dean Henderson – who played several of their late season Premier League matches.

Spain international De Gea was unable to make any saves during the shoot-out before seeing his own decisive penalty blocked by Villarreal goalkeeper Geronimo Rulli as the Yellow Submarine won their first major European title.

"You go through every scenario and it has crossed my mind in the build up to the game, but we were confident in David," Solskjaer said, when asked if he considered bringing on Henderson to replace de Gea for the shoot-out. "I stuck with the keeper that played all the games."

Solskjaer conceded United's 2020-21 season, which is now over, was not a success given they failed to win a trophy and implored his side to find the will to improve.

The Red Devils lost in the EFL Cup semi-finals and FA Cup quarter-finals, while they were eliminated in the Champions League group stage.

Solskjaer pinpointed United's start to the Premier League, collecting only seven points from their first six games, as an area for improvement next term.

"That disappointment is the worst feeling," he said. "These are the moments you remember most.

"There are two ways, you can feel sorry for yourself or you can do something about it and come back stronger.

"We know that we didn't start this season great. We fell behind, too far behind. We need to start really well."

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer admitted Manchester United "didn't turn up" and their season cannot be deemed a success after they were beaten by Villarreal in the Europa League final.

David de Gea missed the only penalty of a marathon shoot-out at Gdansk Stadium, where Villarreal won their first major European trophy on Wednesday.

United goalkeeper De Gea's tame effort gave Villarreal an 11-10 victory on spot-kicks after the two sides were locked at 1-1 at the end of extra time in Poland midweek.

Gerard Moreno put the LaLiga side in front in the first half with his 30th goal of the season and his 82nd for the club, matching a record tally of 82nd that was also achieved by Giuseppe Rossi.

Edinson Cavani equalised 10 minutes into the second half, but United were unable to claim their first trophy under Solskjaer.

Unai Emery, on the other hand, became the first manager to win either the UEFA Cup or UEFA Europa League four times, surpassing Giovanni Trapattoni's haul, having won this competition three times with Sevilla.

Solskjaer knows the Red Devils were not good enough and must raise the bar next season after falling short yet again.

The United boss told BT Sport: "It's a quiet, disappointed dressing room. That's football for you. Sometimes it's decided on one kick - and that’s the difference between winning and losing.

"We have to learn from that one, not savour this feeling but taste this feeling and make sure we don't get it again.

"We didn't turn up. We didn't play as well as we know we can. We started alright and they got the goal, their only shot on target. We were disappointed to concede a goal on a set play.

"We pushed, we pressed, we got a goal. After we scored we didn't control the game or dominate as we wanted. They made it hard for us, they closed spaces. We had the majority of possession. They defended well. We didn't create enough big chances."

Solskjaer, who named Harry Maguire and Fred among the substitutes with neither player fully fit, did not make changes until extra time.

Yet the former Norway striker, who guided United to a second-placed Premier League finish this season, said: "Now is not the time to point the finger at what I'd have done differently. But when you come out without the trophy you haven't done everything right.

"We're getting closer and closer and better. We were one kick away from a trophy and a good night.

"We have to have the desire to come back next year and improve. The only way to get the margins your side is to work harder and better."

Asked if this season has been a success, Solskjaer frankly replied: "No."

He added: "We need to get better, simple as. We've done really well this season coming through. The start was difficult. We had no pre-season and lost three of the first six.

"We pushed in the league, maybe got closer to the top than we thought and we got to a final. But you need to win the finals to make it a good season."

Eric Bailly has warned Manchester United he will only remain at Old Trafford as long as he is a first-team regular, despite last month signing a contract extension.

The centre-back's new deal keeps him at United until 2024, when his previous contract had been set to expire at the end of next season.

But Bailly suggests that agreement will count for little if he remains on the fringes of Ole Gunnar Solskjaer's team.

The ex-Villarreal defender, who hopes to face his former club in Wednesday's Europa League final, has featured in only 20 (33.3 per cent) of United's 60 games in all competitions so far this season, ranking 19th in the Red Devils squad.

And that mark is roughly par for Bailly's United career, having appeared in only 105 (35.7 per cent) and started just 92 (31.3 per cent) of the 294 matches the club have played since his 2016 signings.

Injuries have played their part, with knee and groin issues keeping the player out for extended periods over the past five years, but he has been an unused substitute 18 times this term alone.

This season's 1,590 minutes are Bailly's most since his debut campaign in England (3,230) but still trail Harry Maguire (4,653) and Victor Lindelof (3,908) by some distance.

"Competition is always good to improve," Bailly told The Times. "I just say that I want to stay in case I get the chance to play.

"I don't want to be a starter one game and a substitute for another five.

"If that happens, I will have to look for another solution. The new contract is fine but if I don't play I will be open to listen to other proposals."

Only 39 of Bailly's United outings have come since Solskjaer was appointed in December 2018, in which time the 20-time English champions have played 150 times.

But the defender, who has therefore featured in just 26.0 per cent of the manager's games, was encouraged by discussions prior to signing the contract extension.

"I spoke to him and he told me he wanted me to stay," Bailly added.

"The most important thing was not the renewal but the conversation we had: we sat down, we talked and he told me what he wanted from me and that he wanted me to continue."

Unai Emery insists the idea of "revenge" will not be in his thought process against Manchester United as his past difficulties with Arsenal continue to draw focus.

For the first time in Villarreal's history, they will contest a major European final on Wednesday when Emery's team go up against Ole Gunnar Solskjaer's Red Devils.

But the coach's previous work at Arsenal remains a talking point ahead of the Europa League final in Gdansk, with Emery often ridiculed by English football fans and sections of the media during his time in London.

He got one over on his old club in the semi-finals, however, with his team seeing off Arsenal to end Villarreal's European drought – the Yellow Submarine had been eliminated in each of their previous four semi-finals, UEFA Cup/Europa League semis in 2004, 2011 and 2016 and the Champions League final four in 2006.

Emery guided Arsenal to the Europa League final in 2019 before he was sacked by the Gunners in November that year, replaced by fellow Spaniard Mikel Arteta.

In fact, since the competition's rebranding in 2009-10, Emery has reached the Europa League final on more occasions than any other head coach (five – 2014, 2015, 2016, 2019 and 2021). The Spaniard has won the trophy on three of the previous four occasions he has reached the showpiece, all with Sevilla.

Now he is aiming to achieve success with Villarreal, though he insists any desire to win the trophy has nothing to do with the fact his opponents are English.

"Not at all," he told reporters when asked whether "revenge" was on the cards. "I feel an obligation to Villarreal, this badge, this club, this president.

"I am proud to be able to defend this Villarreal project. There is no revenge with the English teams or people. I am proud to play in this final defending Villarreal’s colours."

Diego Forlan, who played for both clubs during his impressive career, stressed in an interview with Stats Perform that United are not favourites for the match, despite the general consensus suggesting otherwise.

Emery accepts "history and experience" are on United's side, adding that most would have considered them front-runners at the start of the knockout stage.

Yet he is in no doubt that the Yellow Submarine have more than a fighting chance.

"We cannot escape reality. A few months ago we said Man United were among the favourites for the competition," Emery said. "Now we are in the same situation, but we are firm candidates for this title and play against the favourites.

"They have good players, history and experience, but we have a very strong recent history to deserve these moments."

Bruno Fernandes and Luke Shaw are adamant Manchester United do not need any form of motivation or inspiration from the club's iconic former manager Alex Ferguson ahead of Wednesday's Europa League final.

United face Villarreal in Gdansk as they look to win their first piece of silverware since Ole Gunnar Solskjaer replaced Jose Mourinho in December 2018.

Solskjaer's former boss Ferguson is staying in the same hotel as the United squad and has been particularly prominent in the media of late, granting numerous interviews after largely avoiding the press in his eight years since retirement.

Ferguson led United to two Champions League successes – among many other titles – during his storied reign at the club, therefore knows plenty about the pressures and emotions that come with such occasions.

But Shaw and Fernandes stressed they are in no need of any extra motivation or pep talks from Ferguson as they look to sink the Yellow Submarine.

Speaking to the media, Shaw said: "I wouldn't expect him to speak to us. I am sure we don't need people to inspire us for the game tomorrow, as much of a legend as he [Ferguson] is.

"Inside our group we need to do that ourselves. Of course, I'm sat next to the manager now and I am sure he'll be doing that tomorrow, so I'm not sure we'll be seeing too much of Sir Alex tomorrow."

Fernandes continued: "I think we have a coach who passed a lot of time with Alex Ferguson so everything he could say to us, he [Solskjaer] already knows. We trust our coach.

"The team is confident. We trust ourselves, we know what we have to do. This is our moment to do our best.

"We trained well the days before, we have another day to train. Make the job tomorrow, enjoy the moment – being in the final is not for everyone."

It will be United's first European final since the 2016-17 edition of this competition, when they defeated Ajax 2-0 under Mourinho – before that they had gone nine years without a trophy in Europe.

Even reaching the final this time around is something of a milestone, particularly for Solskjaer, as United's record in semi-finals prior to their two-legged tie with Roma was poor under the Norwegian.

The 8-5 aggregate win over Roma ended a run of four successive semi-final eliminations for United under Solskjaer, whose only other final as a manager was in the 2013 Norwegian Cup, and the club's players will relish the chance to end their trophy drought.

"We come to this club because we want to win. It doesn't matter if the club doesn't win for many years, the hope is still there," Fernandes said.

"Trophies are part of this club. Every player knows he will come to United to fight for trophies, to be a better player.

"If you look to history, you have to look to the history, pressure is part of your life. I like the pressure, that's good for me.

"The most important for us is to try to win the game. Everything can happen, but we can control some stuff. Most importantly, the team is growing up and tomorrow will be a sign of that."

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