Marcus Rashford and Manchester United have condemned social media users who allegedly racially abused the England star after Wednesday's Europa League final defeat to Villarreal.

United lost 11-10 to Villarreal on penalties following a marathon shoot-out after the sides could not be split at the conclusion of extra time, with the score 1-1 in Gdansk.

Rashford received online racial abuse in January after United's 0-0 Premier League draw against Arsenal and said he was subject to similar comments again, prompting the forward to call them out.

The England international said he had seen "at least 70 racial slurs" on his social media account following the defeat.

"At least 70 racial slurs on my social accounts counted so far," Rashford wrote on Twitter. "For those working to make me feel any worse than I already do, good luck trying."

United swiftly backed Rashford, condemning the racial abuse on social media.

"Following the #UEL final, our players were subjected to disgraceful racist abuse," the official United account tweeted. "If you see any form of abuse or discrimination, act and report it."

After the racial abuse in January, Rashford described the slurs as society at its worst.

"Humanity and social media at its worst. Yes I'm a black man and I live every day proud that I am," Rashford wrote on Twitter at the time.

"No one, or no one comment, is going to make me feel any different. So sorry if you were looking for a strong reaction, you're just simply not going to get it here.

"I'm not sharing screenshots. It would be irresponsible to do so and as you can imagine there's nothing original in them.

"I have beautiful children of all colours following me and they don't need to read it. Beautiful colours that should only be celebrated."

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."

Unai Emery has set his sights on the Champions League after guiding Villarreal to their first major European title thanks to an upset of Manchester United in the Europa League.

Villarreal surprisingly conquered United in the Europa League final following a marathon 11-10 penalty shoot-out in Gdansk, where the match finished 1-1 after extra time on Wednesday.

Gerard Moreno's first-half opener was cancelled out by United star Edinson Cavani in the 55th minute and the showdown was decided on penalties.

United goalkeeper David de Gea missed the only penalty of a lengthy shoot-out as Emery became the first head coach to win either the UEFA Cup or Europa League four times, surpassing Giovanni Trapattoni.

LaLiga outfit Villarreal are the first side to win in their first appearance of a major European final since Shakhtar Donetsk in the 2008-09 UEFA Cup.

Villarreal will now feature in the Champions League group stage for the first time since 2011-12 and Emery revelled in the achievement post-match while seeking continuity at the club.

"I feel proud [of the credibility of the project] and responsible as I have participated here," Emery said during his post-match news conference. "What they want me to come here for? They didn't want me to come to win the Europa League, because this is very difficult.

"They wanted me to make a job, and the job to give results. In fact, my goal, as I transmitted to the players and the club is to give continuity, hopefully, to be in Europe year after year, with certain continuity.

"Logically, to win a title is something that always is in our mind, and above all, Villarreal build and create the circumstances to be able to have this chance… in the Copa del Rey… to win LaLiga title is more complicated because of the force the top four have right now.

"But we can make our way in the Europa League and now will have the chance to compete in the Champions League. This season in the Europe League our way has been impeccable since the day one."

Moreno opened the scoring in the 29th minute in Poland midweek to move level with Giuseppe Rossi as Villarreal's leading all-time goalscorer with 82, 30 of which have come this season.

Villarreal's Moreno became the first player to score 30-plus goals for the Yellow Submarine in a single season in all competitions since Rossi in 2010-11 (32).

"It's a dream come true," Moreno said. "We remember everything we've done to work toward this. Everyone deserves it; the president, the vice-president.

"We wanted to make history in a big way and we've done it. This has been my best year. Individually and collectively, it's a dream to end up with this title, to be able to score. It's incredible, we're on a cloud."

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."

Manchester United star Marcus Rashford vented his frustration after the shock Europa League final loss to Villarreal, insisting finishing second counts for nothing, though he is confident the Red Devils are on the right path under Ole Gunnar Solskjaer.

United were looking to win their first trophy with Solskjaer at the helm, however, the Premier League giants were upstaged by Unai Emery's Villarreal following a marathon 11-10 penalty shoot-out on Wednesday.

Penalties were needed after the match ended 1-1 at the conclusion of extra time in Gdansk, where Edinson Cavani's 55th-minute goal cancelled out Gerard Moreno's first-half opener for Villarreal.

United goalkeeper David de Gea missed the only spot-kick as Solskjaer's men – who have not won silverware since 2016-17 – fell short following their second-placed finish in the Premier League this season.

"It's disappointing. The feeling is difficult to explain," Rashford told BT Sport. "We came here to win. We've been working so hard all season and this was the opportunity to win a trophy.

"Maybe not now, but we need to look back at the game and see where we can improve.

"The team will not give up, the manager will not give up. We'll come next season with a bigger desire. People say a lot about Manchester United, but for me the hunger, desire, talent and ability – we have everything to compete at the highest level.

"We just have to show it to the world and to ourselves, why we belong in places like this."

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.

When facing an English side in a European competition final (including Super Cups), Spanish sides have taken home the trophy in the last 10 such finals, with United accounting for four of those defeats (2009 and 2011 Champions League, 2017 Super Cup and 2021 Europa League).

"Second doesn't count for nothing. I don't want to hear, 'oh they were so close'. It doesn't mean anything. We have to make sure we don't lose," added Rashford.

"To win big trophies you have to show sacrifice. I can show you six, seven players who've been carrying injuries since September. We have to go away now and clear our heads.

"When Ole came in there was a process. We believe in the process and this isn't the end of the process. Just because we've lost today, I promise the fans that we won't give up.

"We have to do our best on the pitch. We're close, I promise we're close, but close isn't good enough."

Unai Emery claimed a record-breaking fourth UEFA Cup/Europa League title after Villarreal upstaged Manchester United for their first major European crown.

Villarreal conquered United in the Europa League final following a marathon 11-10 penalty shoot-out in Gdansk, where the match finished 1-1 after extra time.

Gerard Moreno's first-half opener was cancelled out by United star Edinson Cavani in the 55th minute and the showdown was decided on penalties.

United goalkeeper David de Gea missed the only penalty of a lengthy shoot-out as Emery became the first head coach to win either the UEFA Cup or Europa League four times, surpassing Giovanni Trapattoni.

Emery won the Europa League with Sevilla in 2014, 2015 and 2016.

LaLiga outfit Villarreal are the first side to win in their first appearance of a major European final since Shakhtar Donetsk in the 2008-09 UEFA Cup.

Alex Ferguson accompanied Manchester United to Gdansk for their Europa League final against Villarreal and there was an echo from his glorious era during the first half at Stadion Energa.

Flowing attacking football? Swashbuckling wing play?

Nope. Ole Gunnar Solskjaer was on the touchline shouting and swearing at his players. Swearing a lot.

The spark for that particular outburst after the half hour was Aaron Wan-Bissaka sending a routine pass out of play, but the United manager was already smouldering after Gerard Moreno gave Villareal the lead in soft fashion.

As Victor Lindelof forlornly grappled with the Spain striker – who is now the joint-top scorer in Villarreal history alongside former United youngster Giuseppe Rossi – it was easy to bemoan the absence of Harry Maguire, easy to imagine the England centre-back authoritatively dealing with the situation.

It should be pointed out that Gerard's 30 goals and 10 assists in all competitions this season show plenty of opponents haven't dealt with him too effectively and, in any case, it was those performances from United's big names that need not be imagined that were the problem.

Everywhere Solskjaer looked and raged, there were big names not turning up.

Bruno Fernandes, their superstar midfielder and captain in Maguire's absence, endured an abject first 45 minutes where he was entirely unable to impose his will on the contest.

The Portugal international's 23 passes and 31 touches were the eighth-lowest returns in the United team, with only forwards Mason Greenwood and Edinson Cavani and goalkeeper David de Gea less involved in possession. How De Gea would have loved to keep his part in this long, slow death of a penalty shootout defeat so minimal.

Fernandes also won none of five duels contested, while Paul Pogba – purposefully probing with 31 passes in the Villareal half, including one delicious effort with the outside of his foot to release Greenwood down the right wing – was the only saving grace in a team almost entirely devoid of creativity.

Nevertheless, as bad as they were, there was not reason to worry unduly, understandable as Solskjaer's agitation was. This is just what his United do.

In 10 away games in the Premier League this season they conceded first, only to win nine and draw one of those contests Even on neutral territory, Villarreal must have known what was coming.

The pressure on Unai Emery's defence was more about volume than quality, but Fernandes was there to force the issue in the 55th minute as Luke Shaw's corner was partially cleared and his drive cannoned off a few legs and fell to the lurking Cavani.

When Shaw mishit a right-footed swipe at his forehead and Greenwood later got in the way of the veteran striker, it almost felt as if United were trying to test Cavani's masterful penalty box prowess.

What they wouldn't have given to have the Uruguay international on the of Fernandes' cross with 20 minutes remaining. Instead, Marcus Rashford produced a truly howling miss, one worryingly in keeping with the final months of a season where Solskjaer repeatedly sending him back to the well appears to have taken a toll.

Rashford wasn't the only player who did not need extra time. By the conclusion of a forgettable half hour, notable only for weary limbs and a flurry of late United substitutions after Emery reasserted some control with his more judicious deployment of fresh legs, everyone seemed happy enough to let penalties seal their fate.

For all the parallels this season with those old Fergie qualities – the comebacks, the late winners, the fast attacks – United were rudderless for far too much of this final, particularly as the shootout loomed.

They remain a team dependent on moments, moments they frequently produce, but lacking a foundation for when games end up in the mire.

Of course, poor old De Gea had moments. Eleven of them whistled past a prostrate body or outstretched gloves before a fateful 12th. The Spain goalkeeper's ordeal versus this admirable club from his homeland will linger long in the memory, but a team of United's resources should never have allowed events to spiral to that moment of torment.

For all the notable approximations of their glory years under a fan favourite, there remains much to be done for Solskjaer's United if they are to escape nights such as this where they look like little more than a straining Ferguson-era tribute act.

David de Gea missed the only penalty of a marathon shootout as Villarreal won the Europa League with victory over Manchester United at Gdansk Stadium.

Gerard Moreno opened the scoring in the first half of a poor final in Poland on Wednesday to move level with Giuseppe Rossi as the Yellow Submarine's leading all-time goalscorer with 82 - 30 of which have come this season.

Edinson Cavani equalised early in the second half with his sixth goal in five Europa League games for United and the two sides remained level at 1-1 after extra time.

There had been an astonishing 21 successful spot-kicks until United goalkeeper De Gea's tame effort was kept out by his opposite number Geronimo Rulli, with Villarreal winning the shootout 11-10.

Villarreal go into the Champions League next season after winning their first major European trophy, with head coach Unai Emery having lifted this trophy an incredible four times.

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, on the other hand, remains without a trophy during his tenure after a flat performance from United.

Manchester United captain Harry Maguire was named on the bench for Wednesday's Europa League final with Villarreal.

The centre-back's participation in the final was put into significant doubt this month when he suffered ankle ligament damage during United's 3-1 win at Aston Villa.

United boss Ole Gunnar Solskjaer had previously said he expected Maguire to miss the Gdansk showpiece.

But Maguire at least had a chance of being involved after earning a place among the substitutes as United eyed their first piece of silverware since winning the same competition back in 2017.

Eric Bailly partnered Victor Lindelof at the heart of United's defence, which David de Gea played behind after he was preferred to Dean Henderson in goal.

Villarreal coach Unai Emery also faced a difficult decision in between the posts, and the former Arsenal manager selected Geronimo Rulli over Sergio Asenjo for their first major European final.

Gerard Moreno is the danger man United's defence needed to guard against. Gerard was handed a start up front alongside Carlos Bacca, having scored six goals in this season's tournament.

Paco Alcacer, who has matched that tally, provided a goalscoring threat off the bench after being left out in favour of teenage winger Yeremy.

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."

Trent Alexander-Arnold received praise to go with his recall from Gareth Southgate as the England boss hedged his bets for Euro 2020 by naming a 33-man provisional squad.

The Liverpool right-back could yet face exclusion agony when Southgate trims his list to 26 next week, but for now Alexander-Arnold is back in the England picture.

Once seen as a player who would hold down the right full-back berth for England for years to come, the 22-year-old was dramatically dropped from Southgate's squad in March, with the head coach questioning his recent level of performance at club level.

Atletico Madrid's Kieran Trippier and Manchester City's Kyle Walker – both title winners with their clubs this season – look to be ahead of Alexander-Arnold, who may be battling Chelsea's Reece James for a place in the final group.

After a late-season surge to a Champions League place by Liverpool, helped by an improved Alexander-Arnold, the England head coach was left with a quandary.

"I could easily get drawn into individuals who might be in the 26, get myself in a mess," said Southgate in a news conference following his squad announcement.

"People feel I have an obsession with right-backs. I see four good footballers. Trippier can play right-back or left-back, Trent can play right-back, wing-back. I think he can play in midfield.

"In the last few days I've seen Reece James play right in a three, at wing-back, in midfield. We're going to a tournament and those sorts of flexible players that can fulfill different roles but are good footballers are going to be hugely important for us.

"We don't know how it will play out with injuries, what our best systems will be with people available, we've got too many question marks.

"That will all become far clearer. We know what we'd like to do, we've got good contingencies in place."

Southgate selected an expanded squad because of injury worries over the likes of Harry Maguire and Jordan Henderson, the captains of Manchester United and Liverpool. By including Alexander-Arnold, Southgate at least delays any criticism over his exclusion, and it may be that a space opens up for the attack-minded defender.

Alexander-Arnold is a slightly different flavour of defender to Southgate's other options, as a player who had 13 assists in Liverpool's 2019-20 title-winning campaign and seven in the league season just ended.

James has just two Premier League assists in 2020-21 and Walker only one, with the City defender creating just eight chances compared to the 77 set up by Alexander-Arnold. Trippier assisted on six goals in LaLiga, however.

 

James, Walker and Trippier are all well ahead of Alexander-Arnold in terms of dribble and tackle success rates, and Southgate can be expected to be aware of such factors.

Alexander-Arnold's 2020-21 league dribble success rate stood at just 47.06 per cent, with Walker posting 53.33 per cent, James 65.38 per cent and Trippier 76 per cent.

In tackling success, Alexander-Arnold's 58.93 per cent success rate was beaten by his three right-back rivals, who each scored at least 63 per cent, led by 65.52 per cent by Walker.

The Liverpool man's attempted dribbles may at times have been high-tariff manoeuvres, given he regularly plays high up the field, but Alexander-Arnold loses possession at a rate that could give England problems. He gave up the ball 25.49 times on average per 90 minutes in 2020-21 league action, compared to 14.83 by James, 16.35 by Trippier and a mere 13.32 by Walker.

As Southgate toys with that big call, he must also decide whether Mason Greenwood, United's 19-year-old forward, makes the cut.

Greenwood scored just seven Premier League goals at one every 261 minutes in 2020-21 but, after a strong end to the campaign, he has again caught the eye of England's manager, who sent him home along with Phil Foden at the start of the season after a breach of COVID-19 protocol while on national team duty in Iceland.

"In terms of the past it is absolutely the past," Southgate said. "Young people make mistakes, we move on from it, the same with Phil [Foden].

"He's an absolutely outstanding finisher, no question about that."

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer hopes the presence of Sir Alex Ferguson will help inspire his Manchester United players to "take the next step" by winning the Europa League.

Legendary former manager Ferguson, who won 38 trophies in 26 years at Old Trafford, has travelled with the United squad to Gdansk ahead of Wednesday's final with Villarreal 

The Red Devils face Spanish side Villarreal seeking their first silverware since Solskjaer took over from Jose Mourinho in December 2018, initially on a caretaker basis.

It also marks just Solskjaer's second final as a manager, having won the 2013 Norwegian Cup with Molde, where he also lifted the Tippeligaen in 2011 and 2012.

After ending his curse of losing in four cup semi-finals as United boss, Solskjaer believes a first trophy for his current crop of players can be a springboard for further success.

"Of course, when players get the taste of success, it can go one of two ways," Solskjaer said at Tuesday's pre-match news conference. 

"Now we've done it, or how I felt before, it gives you that feeling of being hungry for more. You want that feeling again. 

"For this group, working hard for a year or two, it's a next step for them now to go and enjoy a game like this.

"These are big nights for us. It might be the stepping stone for something better to come. This team is a young team, a team that we've rebuilt. 

"Hopefully this is the start of something more. Sir Alex is with us, the 26th of May is Sir Matt [Busby]'s birthday. 

"When the players sign for Manchester United, they sign to win, to accept the challenge of being the best. 

"This is the best club of the world, this is the pleasure of the pressure. They wouldn't have signed if they weren't top players."

Asked about Ferguson's role in United's preparations, Solskjaer said: "He flew out with us yesterday. Some of us went to see his documentary.

"I sat there thinking about this special man. He's an encyclopaedia of football. When we eat in the restaurant, if the players wonder about something, they can ask him. 

"He's always available. I hope he's going to enjoy it as well. I owe most of my career to him and this club."

Wednesday's match will be United's eighth major European final, which is the second-most of any English club after Liverpool (14).

United, who have won five of those previous seven finals, are expected to be without key man Harry Maguire against Villarreal as the defender continues to nurse an ankle injury.

Maguire was included in United's squad, despite missing his side's final four league games of the season, but Solskjaer is not overly confident the centre-back will be ready to feature.

"We've prepared well," Solskjaer said. "Anthony [Martial] didn't make it, Phil [Jones] of course didn't make it and Harry is just probably going to jog up and down the sideline [in training].

"He'll probably try to join in the training session a little but apart from that we're looking quite good.

"It's always difficult to leave players out. But throughout the whole season, a final is a reward for what you've done the whole season.

"We'll enjoy the last training session and the players will learn the team tomorrow."

United rounded off their Premier League campaign with a 2-1 win at Wolves to finish in second place, 12 points behind runaway champions Manchester City.

Solskjaer is pleased with the progress made season-on-season and insists his players will be ready for the huge showdown with Unai Emery's Villarreal.

"I've got enough self-belief in myself, whatever circumstances I've been in," he said.  "I trust in the players, who I know are ready. I've seen in them something growing.

"I'm confident that we're ready for this now. Every player who goes into a final has the pressure to win. You have to play to win, we expect to win, but I'm sure Unai feels the same. 

"It's been a long qualification to get here and it's 50-50. I feel confident that we are ready for this. In a final, anything can happen and we have to be ready for everything."

United are facing Villarreal for a fifth time, with each of the previous four meetings – all in the Champions League between 2005-06 and 2008-09 – finishing goalless 

The Red Devils have faced Villarreal more times without ever scoring than they have any other opponent in their history.

Bruno Fernandes says comparisons with Manchester United icon Eric Cantona motivate him to become even better. 

The Portugal international has enjoyed a sensational season for the Red Devils, scoring 28 goals and making 18 assists across all competitions. 

Eighteen of his goals and 12 of the assists came in 37 Premier League appearances as United secured second place and consecutive top-four finishes for the first time since 2013. 

Fernandes' form helped him win United's Player of the Year award for a second straight season, the midfielder receiving an overwhelming 63 per cent of the votes cast by supporters.

Fernandes followed in the footsteps of Cristiano Ronaldo, Ruud van Nistelrooy, Roy Keane and David de Gea to become only the fifth player in United history to win the club's annual award in consecutive campaigns.

It is another United great Fernandes has been compared to, though.

Cantona lit up the Premier League between 1992 and 1997 and former Sporting CP man Fernandes says he is "honoured" to be spoken about in the same breath as the Frenchman.

"It is an honour to be compared with him because the impact he had was really high and he won many major trophies with the club," Fernandes told BBC Sport.

"But when you are compared with this kind of big player, it means you need to be better every day. It makes me work harder to keep in the mind of the people, being compared with him. That, for me, is a good pressure."

Fernandes is out on his own as United's top scorer this season, with Marcus Rashford seven goals adrift of the 26-year-old. 

His most recent strike, a deflected effort in the 4-2 defeat to Liverpool on May 13, saw him overtake Frank Lampard as the highest scoring midfielder for a Premier League club across all competitions in a single campaign. Lampard scored 27 times for Chelsea in 2009-10.

Yet Fernandes rejects suggestions he has done much of the heavy lifting for Ole Gunnar Solskjaer's side this season, insisting the club would not have enjoyed as successful a campaign without the support of his team-mates.

"It is such a big club. It would be heavy to lift it myself," he added. "Of course, I did really well. I know that, from my numbers, my performance, everything.

"But this comes from the help and trust of my team-mates. They have helped me to be better every day. And if they help me, I know I can help them."

United are aiming to claim their first piece of silverware since 2017 when they face Villarreal in the Europa League final on Wednesday. 

While a major trophy and a second-placed finish in the Premier League would be considered a success by many, Fernandes is targeting more next term. 

"This team is improving," he said. "Everyone can see it. We are growing up and understand together we can reach better things.

"The most important thing for me about next season is being all together; the club, players and fans pushing to the same side. 

"If we all do that, we could do many good things next season, which, I am pretty sure, will be much better than this one."

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