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."

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."

Manchester United are not favourites against Villarreal in a "50-50" Europa League final, according to Diego Forlan, who played for both clubs.

United face the LaLiga side in Gdansk on Wednesday as manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer aims to get his hands on a first piece of silverware in the role.

This is United's eighth major European final but Villarreal's first.

Forlan feels this history has skewed perceptions of the match, though, with Villarreal unbeaten in Europe this season and led by Unai Emery, who is aiming to become the first coach to win the UEFA Cup or Europa League four times.

"I don't think Manchester United is the favourite," Forlan told Stats Perform.

"People say Manchester United due to its history, what it means, and for being such a big club. No doubt it is.

"However, for the game, the past is useless, what counts is the present, the performance itself.

"That's why players for Manchester United are careful, because they know they can win but also they can lose, 50-50.

"Maybe people are underrating what Villarreal history has. It is a team who always compete very well. They play very good football and they can hurt Manchester United."

Forlan left United for Villarreal in 2004 and featured against the Old Trafford outfit when the sides met for the first time in September 2005.

He was absent for the return match two months later, however, and had left before their most recent clashes in 2008-09.

All four games between the sides have ended 0-0, making Villarreal the opponents United have faced most in their history without ever scoring.

The Red Devils might also be wary of Spanish teams' recent records against English opposition in finals, with the past nine meetings – since Liverpool beat Alaves 5-4 in the 2000-01 UEFA Cup – seeing the LaLiga side come out on top.

Emery was in charge for one of those nine, overseeing a Europa League final victory against Liverpool with Sevilla in 2015-16.

"[Emery] is a very experienced coach," Forlan added. "He has been coaching many years. He has won the Europa League and was also in the final with Arsenal when they lost against Chelsea.

"It is a guy that knows this competition very well. I think it is good for the team when you have a coach with the experience, the support that he has.

"It doesn't give you everything you need to win the final, but it gives you a little bit of support, which is good when you go into a game like this."


The UEFA Europa League Final is full of the most exciting action and unpredictable moments – choose yours now for a chance to win an epic prize bundle at uefa.com/UELMoment

For the first time under Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, Manchester United are preparing for a final.

The Europa League might not be top of the agenda for Solskjaer's United ambitions but, after four semi-final defeats as manager in three different competitions, he will be delighted to have a shot at what could be the Red Devils' first trophy since they won this competition in 2017.

Of course, this is also a momentous occasion for Villarreal: a first European final of any kind against a team who have been in these matches seven times previously. However, the Spaniards boast experience in coach Unai Emery, who won this trophy on three occasions while in charge of Sevilla.

Ahead of the first major final in European competition this week, Stats Perform examines the key Opta data...

The Coaches

When it comes to experience at this stage, Emery certainly has the edge.

The former Arsenal boss lifted this trophy three years in a row from 2014 to 2016 and could become the first coach to win either the UEFA Cup or Europa League four times.

Solskjaer, however, has contested only one final in his managerial career: he won the 2013 Norwegian Cup with Molde. Indeed, no Norwegian coach has ever won a major European trophy.

Emery and Solskjaer have faced off twice before in the Premier League, when the Spaniard was at Arsenal. The Gunners won 2-0 at Emirates Stadium in March 2019, ending Solskjaer's unbeaten league start at United, before a 1-1 draw at Old Trafford in September of that year.

However, it was Solskjaer who came out on top when they met in a knockout fixture, United triumphing 3-1 in north London in an FA Cup tie in January 2019. Their goals in that tie came from Alexis Sanchez, Jesse Lingard and Anthony Martial - none of whom will be involved in Gdansk.

The Records

While Emery is chasing history of his own, Villarreal are hoping to become the 10th Spanish team in a row to defeat an English side in a European final - a run that includes United losing twice to Barcelona in the Champions League.

United have found it tough going against the Yellow Submarine in the past. In fact, the Red Devils have faced Villarreal more often without scoring than any other side in their history, with each of their previous four meetings ending 0-0.

However, United have won five of the seven major European finals they have contested (only Liverpool, with 14, have been in more among English sides). A win would secure the 67th trophy in their history, extending their lead over Liverpool (65) when it comes to England's most successful clubs.

The Star Names

All eyes will be on Bruno Fernandes in his first final for United.

The Portugal star has played 57 times this season, more than anyone else in Europe's top-five leagues, providing 28 goals and 18 assists. Only four players across those top leagues have been directly involved in more goals. His 137 chances created surpasses anyone else.

Wednesday could also see Mason Greenwood make his first career appearance in a final. Should he score, he would become only the second English teenager to do so in a major European final, the first being Brian Kidd, who netted on his 19th birthday when United beat Benfica in the 1968 European Cup final.

At the other end of the career spectrum sits Edinson Cavani, who has averaged a goal or assist every 35 minutes in this season's Europa League, the best return of anyone to play at least 200 minutes in the competition.

Cavani, who has 10 league goals in just 13 starts in his first season with the club, is bidding to become the third player aged 34 or over to score in a major European final for an English side, after Gary McAllister in the 2001 UEFA Cup final and Didier Drogba in the 2012 Champions League final.

Carlos Bacca has history in this fixture, having scored twice in the final six years ago for Sevilla. The Colombian could become the first player to score in a major European final for two teams from the same nation since Hernan Crespo, who was on target for Parma in 1999 and then Milan in 2005.

Villarreal's main threat will likely come through Gerard Moreno. With 29 goals and 10 assists in all competitions, he has been the most dangerous Spanish forward in Europe this term. Indeed, Lionel Messi (50) is the only player from LaLiga with more direct goal involvements.

Edinson Cavani's success at Manchester United has not come as a surprise to former Red Devils and Uruguay forward Diego Forlan.

Cavani has starred since joining United on a free transfer from Ligue 1 giants Paris Saint-Germain at the start of the 2020-21 season – the veteran's exploits resulting in a one-year contract extension.

The 34-year-old has scored 16 goals across all competitions this term – above his expected goals (xG) of 13.6 – as United prepare for Wednesday's Europa League final against Villarreal, having finished runners-up to Manchester City in the Premier League.

Cavani boasts a 128.9 minutes-to-goal ratio in 2020-21 – the best mark among his United team-mates, ahead of Bruno Fernandes (159.3), Marcus Rashford (192.1) and Mason Greenwood (254.0).

Forlan, who played alongside Cavani for Uruguay, hailed the in-form United star.

"Edinson Cavani is a great player, I know him. We played alongside each other for many years in the national team, I am really happy for him," Forlan said.

"Surprised? No. No, because I know his capacity and the way he plays. He is a very professional athlete, a good guy.

"So I am not surprised, I knew that he would be the player that he is now, and I am really happy for him that he will continue for one year more [at United]."

Cavani has scored five goals and provided two assists in only 247 minutes of Europa League action this season, averaging either a goal or an assist every 35 minutes – the best return of any player with at least 200 minutes played in the competition this campaign.

He could become 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 decider versus Bayern Munich in 2011-12.

Harry Maguire was included in the Manchester United travelling squad for Wednesday's Europa League final against Villarreal.

The Red Devils captain has not played since injuring his ankle in the 3-1 Premier League win over Aston Villa on May 9.

Manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer admitted on Sunday he did not expect Maguire to be involved but that he would give the centre-back as long as possible to prove his fitness.

While Maguire is in the 26-man group heading to Gdansk, striker Anthony Martial misses out.

Martial has not played for United since March due to a knee injury sustained while away on France duty.

Solskjaer has named young forwards Anthony Elanga, Amad Diallo and Shola Shoretire in the travelling party, with all three having featured in the 2-1 win over Wolves on the final day of the Premier League season.

Elanga scored his first Premier League goal in the victory at Molineux.


United squad travelling to the Europa League final:

David de Gea, Dean Henderson, Lee Grant, Nathan Bishop; Eric Bailly, Victor Lindelof, Harry Maguire, Luke Shaw, Alex Telles, Axel Tuanzebe, Aaron Wan-Bissaka, Brandon Williams; Amad Diallo, Bruno Fernandes, Fred, Daniel James, Juan Mata, Nemanja Matic, Scott McTominay, Paul Pogba, Donny van de Beek; Edinson Cavani, Anthony Elanga, Mason Greenwood, Marcus Rashford, Shola Shoretire.

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer insists he is "ever the optimist" but does not expect Manchester United captain Harry Maguire to be fit for the Europa League final.

Maguire hurt his ankle in the 3-1 win at Aston Villa on May 9 and missed his side's final four Premier League matches of the season.

The England international has had to use a protective boot during his recovery but has not been definitively ruled out of Wednesday's match with Villarreal in Gdansk.

However, Solskjaer admits it is unlikely Maguire will be able to come through a full training session in Poland in just 48 hours' time.

"I will wait for Wednesday," the United manager said after Sunday's 2-1 win at Wolves. "Maybe see if he can run on Tuesday but it is still a bit away. I don't expect him to be ready.

"Of course, he wants to play but it is going to be up to the doctor. I don't expect him to be ready. It does not look great but, ever the optimist, I am still hopeful.

"He has to train on Tuesday when we are over there. It is not many days. I don't expect him to be ready."

United's win at Molineux saw them become only the third different club to go an entire top-flight season in England without losing an away game, after Preston North End (1888-89) and Arsenal twice (2001-02 and 2003-04).

Solskjaer chose to rest several key first-team players ahead of Wednesday's final, handing starts to back-ups such as Brandon Williams, Nemanja Matic and Juan Mata, as well as youngsters Amad Diallo and Anthony Elanga, while Will Fish and Hannibal Mejbri made their senior debuts as late substitutes.

Elanga broke the deadlock with his first Premier League goal before Mata's penalty secured the win after Nelson Semedo had equalised.

Solskjaer said he may well have fielded a stronger side had United been able to play a day earlier, as Villarreal did.

"If we had played yesterday I would probably have picked a different team. I am glad I didn't because it's the first win I have had here," he said.

"Fair play to LaLiga, moving seven games just for Villarreal to have another day of preparation. They could have played tonight and rested players against Real Madrid, it could have been a different result and you never know what that would have changed.

"Good by them and we have to think about it ourselves, definitely. We did not ask the Premier League but of course, whenever we can help our own teams we should do it."

Even with Maguire likely to be sidelined, Solskjaer still hopes he can win his maiden trophy as United boss in what will be his first final since his return to the club in late 2018.

"You always feel pressure at Man United to win things, win trophies," he said. "That is one of the steps. Sometimes a trophy can hide other imperfections but the progress in the league, that we have been in loads of semi-finals, it shows progress.

"But the next step for this team is to win trophies and challenge the champions in the Premier League as well.

"When you win things, you just want to win more. You want to feel that sensation. I know my players will believe but when you get the taste of that first one, it is a big step in the right direction. It is that taste for it. The belief is there, for sure."

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has called for two or three high-profile signings if Manchester United are going to challenge for Premier League glory next season.

United are second in the table, 12 points behind champions Manchester City going into Sunday's final match of the domestic season at Wolves.

Next week's Europa League final against Villarreal provides Solskjaer with the chance of his first piece of silverware after a season of progress.

But as United are linked to the likes of Raphael Varane, Pau Torres, Declan Rice, Jadon Sancho and Harry Kane, Solskjaer does not want the club hierarchy to make the mistake of thinking the last step to the top of the table will occur naturally.

"Of course we're planning as we normally do," Solskjaer said when asked about transfers. "That's an ongoing process.

"We're looking at the squad and I hope we're going to strengthen with the two or three players we definitely need to challenge higher up in the table. 

"We're still too far behind to think it's just going to come by itself.

"We've had a few players on loan that might come back in. There is interest in a few others going out – it's difficult to say, I can't see too many outgoings.

"You want to come out of the transfer window strengthened. We're not where we aimed to be. But we've got ambitions to move up one place.

"There's been steady improvement. Third last season, second this season, some more points. We've done really well away from home. 

"We know we had a difficult start to the season, losing three of the first six games and loads of them were home games, which put pressure on the team.

"The players have been very, very good."

Solskjaer confirmed Anthony Martial will not be available against Wolves or Villarreal, but Daniel James is in contention to feature in both matches.

Midfielders Scott McTominay and Fred "should be OK" for the continental final, though Harry Maguire is not expected to recover in time.

Changes are expected against Wolves ahead of the Villarreal clash in Gdansk.

United have lost just one of their past seven Premier League meetings with Wolves (W3 D3), going down 2-1 at Molineux in April 2019.

"Of course you want to go into the final with loads of energy," added Solskjaer. "We want to get minutes into a few who might need it going into the final, and to enjoy it.

"You want to go in with loads of energy but also confidence. 

"We'll make a few changes versus Wolves, freshen up a few, get minutes into legs of those who might need it."

If they avoid defeat, United will become just the fourth side to remain unbeaten away from home across an entire English top-flight campaign and the first since Arsenal's 'Invincibles' in 2003-04.

If selected, Marcus Rashford will be eyeing his 100th senior career goal (88 for Manchester United, 11 for England). 

Rashford has scored in two of his three starts against Wolves for the Red Devils.

Manchester United boss Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has revealed Harry Maguire is likely to miss the Europa League final against Villarreal.

Maguire suffered ankle ligament damage in an awkward collision with Anwar El Ghazi during the 3-1 win over Aston Villa on May 9 and subsequently had to be withdrawn.

Solskjaer said earlier this week that Maguire was feeling optimistic about his chances of being fit for the match on May 26.

But Solskjaer has now said he does not expect the defender to recover in time.

"He's walking, but it's a long way from walking to running, so to be honest I don't think we'll see him in Gdansk," said the United boss.

"I'm going to give him until Tuesday night, the last training session, to see if he can be out there.

"Ligaments take time to heal."

His absence is an unusual situation for United and Maguire to find themselves in.

The centre-back had played in every minute of 71 consecutive league games for the Red Devils – and in his final five for Leicester City before moving two years ago – until that injury.

In fact, Maguire has played for 9,615 minutes in all competitions since the start of 2019-20. At the time of his injury, that was almost 1,000 more than any other player across the top five leagues.

Solskjaer added: "He's a very important person in the dressing room and a leader.

"Before the fans came in you all heard him from the stands. He wants the team to do well, he's organising from the stands, which has been easy because it's been so quiet.

"He'll be in the dressing room and make sure everyone's ready for the final."

If Maguire is indeed out, United are likely to line up with Victor Lindelof and Eric Bailly in the centre of defence, with the latter facing his former club.

Mason Greenwood is focused on Manchester United's bid for Europa League glory as his late season form continues to propel talk of an England recall for Euro 2020.

The 19-year-old enjoyed a breakout season at Old Trafford last term, his 17 goals making it the joint most prolific season for a teenager in United's history – level with George Best (1965-66), Brian Kidd (1967-68) and Wayne Rooney (2004-05).

He found the going somewhat tougher this time around and had five goals in 39 appearances across all competitions heading into the March international break, when he failed to make Gareth Southgate's squad.

Since April 1, Greenwood has eight goals in 11 games, with six in seven in the Premier League making him the division's joint-top scorer alongside Burnley's Chris Wood during this period.

United take on Fulham on Tuesday before closing their Premier League campaign at Wolves. All attention will then turn to the Europa League final against Villarreal in Gdansk, when the Red Devils will seek to win a first major honour since lifting the same trophy four years ago.

"To win something with United would be amazing," Greenwood told Sky Sports.

"I want to do that. We are in a good position to do it. A good finish to the Premier League season and a win in the final would be nice. We need a bit of silverware, we have not had any for a few years, so to bring it back home would be a good feeling.

"It would be nice to go to the Euros but I just want to be fully focused on United for these two games and the Europa League final.

"What happens, happens. I have not really been thinking about it too much. I have just been going out there thinking about my performances for United, how to score and help the team score.

"I have just been focusing on my football."

Greenwood found himself under scrutiny for actions off the pitch earlier in the season when, after making their England debuts in Iceland, he and Manchester City playmaker Phil Foden were sent home for breaching coronavirus protocols.

Ole Gunnar Solksjaer believes the United youngster has come through that episode a stronger person and, with Euro 2020 squads now expanded to 26 players, the clamour for Gareth Southgate to include Greenwood as a wildcard pick in attack is mounting.

"I totally agree with him, I have come through it stronger," Greenwood said.

"All of these little things make you into a better person, a better human being and a better footballer. It makes you learn a few things. It is like when you are playing, you learn from your mistakes. You either let it affect you or you push forward. Why not push forward?"

Greenwood added: "The manager has been fully focused on me and he has helped me a lot. He speaks to all the lads a lot, individually and as a group. I am really pleased to have him there."

Harry Maguire is feeling optimistic about his chances of being fit for the Europa League final, according to Manchester United manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer.

Maguire suffered ankle ligament damage in an awkward collision with Anwar El Ghazi during the 3-1 win over Aston Villa on May 9 and subsequently had to be withdrawn.

It was an unusual situation for United and Maguire to find themselves in, as the centre-back had played in every minute of 71 consecutive league games for the Red Devils – and in his final five for Leicester City before moving two years ago – until that injury.

In fact, Maguire has played for 9,615 minutes in all competitions since the start of 2019-20. Prior to the defeat to Liverpool on Thursday, that was almost 1,000 more than any other player across the top five leagues.

That loss to the Reds came just two days after losing to Leicester, meaning United have been beaten in both games without their captain and Solskjaer was quick to accept that he will surely not play again in the Premier League this term.

Given United are already guaranteed to finish in the top four, their focus is now on facing Villarreal in the Europa League final on May 26, with Solskjaer hoping to end his wait for silverware at the club.

The manager offered an update on Sunday, insisting United will take no chances with Maguire's fitness.

"He's making progress," Solskjaer told reporters. "When I spoke to him this morning he was quite positive but, naturally, the day after it happened we were all down.

"We saw early on, or we decided that we have to focus, we have to be positive, and think that you're going make it until you have to say 'no'. I've always been an optimist, so we're positive.

"But we've consciously taken the route of not testing him out too early, too quickly, because we don't want to aggravate something. He wants this so much, so he doesn't want to take any risks, either.

"Hopefully we can have good news early, but I'll give Harry as long as it takes, because of course he has shown his importance.

"Hopefully he'll speed up the recovery and be ready for the final, but I'll give him as long as he needs, until he says 'yes' or 'no'."

Although Solskjaer needs no convincing of Maguire's influence, fans and pundits have not always been so kind about him considering United made him the world's most expensive defender when they bought him in 2019.

Maguire has missed 12 games for United in all competitions, most of them in the domestic cups, so comparing them directly with and without their captain is a pretty redundant exercise.

Examining his individual numbers offers a broader picture of his influence, though. He has helped United to 42 clean sheets in all competitions since joining, the most of any defender across Europe's top five leagues prior to the Liverpool loss. He was also directly responsible for by far the most clearances (391), headed clearances (244), duels won (645) and aerials won (432) over that same period.

Unquestionably a good stopper, he has also proved suitably adept with the ball. Maguire has made 6,152 successful passes in his United career, again the most of any defender in those top European leagues over the aforementioned period. Of those passes, 2,142 have been completed in the opponent's half, which is the best figure for any nominal centre-back.

Maguire can also claim to have had as much of an influence on United's patterns of play as any Solskjaer signing – barring Bruno Fernandes, of course.

In the Premier League this season, Maguire has started 24 open-play sequences that have ended in a shot, which again was the highest number among the division's centre-backs until his injury.

Maguire has not only made United's defence more resolute; he has directly impacted their use of the ball. His absence has already been keenly felt, but at least the United captain might start to be acknowledged as one of the most influential players in England – not that it was ever in doubt for Solskjaer.

"We've known it [his importance] all along, of course. But maybe some people open their eyes when he's not playing! I certainly felt I became a very, very good player when I was injured. People suddenly realised what I could do as a sub, or as a player," Solskjaer continued.

"Harry's been our leader, he's a captain. Ever since he's come in, he's been more or less ever-present, so of course he's a big miss at the moment."

It was a shame Harry Maguire's run of never missing a Premier League match for Manchester United had to end against his former club – even if Leicester City might have been pleased.

The United captain sat out Tuesday's 2-1 win for the Foxes at Old Trafford, a result that handed Manchester City the title and brought one of this season's few constants to an end.

Maguire had played in every minute of 71 consecutive league games for the Red Devils – and in his final five for Leicester before his transfer two years ago – until an unfortunate ankle injury saw him hobble off 78 minutes into his side's 3-1 win at Aston Villa last Sunday.

Granted, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer may well have rested him for Leicester's visit anyway due to the "impossible" task of playing three Premier League games in five days, but the decision, in the end, was taken out of his hands as United's lingering title hopes finally died.

City were almost certain to win the league anyway and United are guaranteed a top-four finish, so their remaining league matches with Liverpool, Fulham and Wolves are of comparatively little importance even if second place is not yet secured. More pertinent is the looming Europa League final on May 26, when Solskjaer will get his first shot at silverware as United manager, possibly with his captain watching from the sidelines.

Depending on their performance and results in these coming four games, Maguire may at least be given some of the credit he deserves, which was notably scarce in that 71-match run.

CAPTAIN'S RUN

Firstly, the simple reality of playing that many consecutive matches without a minute's rest is more remarkable than many seem to realise.

Since the start of 2019-20, Maguire has played for 9,615 minutes in all competitions, more than any other player across Europe's top five leagues. The next on that list is Bayern Munich goalkeeper Manuel Neuer on 8,700 minutes, a difference that equates to more than 10 full matches.

Critics would argue praising a footballer for playing is no different to lauding any other professional –  much less handsomely paid – for simply turning up for work, but starting 106 matches across two seasons, any two seasons, is commendable. Throw in the unprecedented disruption of a global pandemic, the lockdowns, the pause in training and matches, the restart, the brutal rescheduling and the persistent restrictions on personal travel, and what Maguire has managed points to an astonishing work ethic and dedication.

Few people truly believe Maguire, or any defender, is worth the £80million United paid for him three years ago, but that kind of outlay undoubtedly looks better on a balance sheet when the 'asset' has been available for his team at every opportunity. Look at Eden Hazard, a €100m-plus Galactico who moved at the same time as Maguire and has played roughly a quarter of the number of minutes since for Real Madrid.

TOP OF THE CHARTS

Maguire has missed 11 games for United in all competitions, most of them in the domestic cups, so comparing them directly with and without their captain is a pretty redundant exercise.

Examining his individual numbers offers a broader picture of his influence, though. He has helped United to 42 clean sheets in all competitions, the most of any defender across Europe's top five leagues in that time. He is also directly responsible for by far the most clearances (391), headed clearances (244), duels won (645) and aerials won (432).

Anyone with Maguire's minutes will naturally build up those sorts of numbers, but his averages place him in good company, too. Since his United debut, Maguire's 3.66 headed clearances per 90 minutes is better than that of John Stones (2.47), Ruben Dias (2.86) and Antonio Rudiger (3.1), and a fraction behind Virgil van Dijk (3.94). His duels-won-per-90 rate of 6.04 is marginally better than Van Dijk's (5.95) and behind only Chris Basham, Jannik Vestergaard and James Tarkowski among central defenders from England's top tier.

Unquestionably a good stopper, he has also proved suitably adept with the ball. Maguire has made 6,152 successful passes in his United career, again the most of any defender in those top European leagues over the same period. Of those passes, 2,142 have been completed in the opponent's half, which is the best figure for any nominal centre-back.

Compare United 2018-19 with how they have been since Maguire's arrival, and his impact becomes starker. In that season, when Solskjaer took over from Jose Mourinho in December 2018, only six Premier League teams conceded more goals than United (70) in all competitions, while their Expected Goals Against tally of 71.8 was the fourth worst among Premier League sides. They also faced 694 shots, the third most behind Arsenal (709) and Tottenham (718), and kept only 12 clean sheets. Man City kept 33.

In Maguire's first season, United conceded only 51 in all competitions, the fewest of any Premier League sides apart from Leicester (49) and Sheffield United (45), with their xGA dropping to 59.24, the lowest of the 'big six' apart from City (55.02). They also faced 79 fewer shots and kept 27 clean sheets, more than any other Premier League side.

United have already conceded 61 times this season, but 12 of those goals came in their first three league games just a month after their run to the previous Europa League semi-finals and shortly following a legal case involving Maguire in Greece. They still have the third-best defence in the Premier League, have lost the joint fewest games (five) and have kept 24 clean sheets in all competitions, behind only City and Chelsea (31).

THE MAGUIRE WAY

Maguire can also claim to have had as much of an influence on United's patterns of play as any Solskjaer signing – barring Bruno Fernandes, of course.

Solskjaer's side have often faced difficulty against well-structured defences partly because the Red Devils sometimes lack players willing to break lines and pull opponents out of position. Counterintuitively, that's something Maguire does extremely well.

In the Premier League this season, only Ruben Dias (806) has completed more carries (moving with the ball five metres or more) than Maguire (685), who is regularly the starting point of positive United moves. Indeed, Maguire has started 24 open-play sequences to end in a shot, which is the highest number among Premier League centre-backs this term. 

Similarly, Maguire has 93 shot build-up involvements, a useful measure of those players who actively contribute to attacking situations without actually taking the shot themselves. Again, only Dias (98) has more among centre-backs, while each of them has seen those involvements end in a goal 13 times, the most in the league.

Maguire has not only made United's defence more resolute; he has directly impacted their use of the ball. His absence in the coming games will be keenly felt, but at least the United captain might start to be acknowledged as one of the most influential players in England.

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer does not expect Harry Maguire to feature in the Premier League again this season but remains hopeful he will be fit for the Europa League final.

United captain Maguire suffered ankle ligament damage when he collided with Anwar El Ghazi during a 3-1 win at Aston Villa last Sunday.

The England centre-back was at Old Trafford on crutches wearing a protective boot on his left foot for a 2-1 loss to Leicester City on Tuesday, a defeat that sealed the title for Manchester City.

Solskjaer thinks Maguire's top-flight campaign is over with three games to play, but is optimistic he will face Villarreal in Gdansk on May 26.

The United boss said on the eve of Thursday's Premier League encounter with Liverpool: "The good news was it wasn't broken. There was no fracture, but a ligament injury of course is serious as well.

"If I'm very positive - that's maybe stretching it - I'm hopeful that he might be ready for it [the Europa League final]. I don't think he'll play in the league again before [the end of the season]. We'll do everything we can to get him ready for the final."

Solskjaer said there should be no concerns that he might take a risk by playing Maguire with Euro 2020 on the horizon.

"You always try to look after players long-term. If he's fit, he'll play for us, if he's not he won't," said the former Norway striker.

"As I said, we're hopeful that he's ready. If he's ready for us, he'll probably be ready for the Euros. Norway are not in the Euros, so I'm not really that concerned [about the Euros]."

Solskjaer made 10 changes to his starting line-up for the defeat to the Foxes and will rotate again when they face Champions League hopefuls Liverpool, given United are amid a schedule of four games in the space of 10 days.

"There will be changes of course but many of the players that played tonight did really well so they're in contention as well," he added.

"It's about managing the squad now and building momentum, building confidence, making sure we get enough points to get second and then going into the final confident."

Harry Maguire could miss the Europa League final after Manchester United confirmed he suffered ankle ligament damage against Aston Villa, though Ole Gunnar Solskjaer is hopeful he can face Villarreal.

The England centre-back was visibly hurt following a challenge with Anwar El Ghazi in Sunday's 3-1 comeback win and had to be replaced by Eric Bailly after 78 minutes.

Solskjaer was unclear how long United would be without Maguire initially, suggesting there was a chance he could be fit for Tuesday's visit of Leicester City before also acknowledging his season may be over.

He was able to offer a little more clarity on Tuesday, with Maguire left out of the squad to face his former club, revealing there has been ligament damage rather than a fracture.

A statement on the United website said that "he could also be absent for the remaining league fixtures", while also stating he faces a "race against time" to be fit for the Europa League final on May 26.

Solskjaer stressed he remains optimistic, though he could not be certain that Maguire will feature in Gdansk.

Speaking to MUTV ahead of the clash with Leicester, Solskjaer said: "He's obviously had the scans and the good news is there is no fracture.

"[There's] ligament damage but hopefully we will see him again this season. Hopefully, he'll be ready for the final."

Maguire had previously played every minute in the Premier League since joining from Leicester prior to his withdrawal on Sunday.

His run of 71 games in succession put him tied with only Gary Pallister for an outfield United player in the competition – with the ex-Red Devils defender coincidentally also seeing his streak ended by injury at Villa Park in the 1995-96 season.

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