Unai Emery was never ashamed of his love for the Europa League. He once defended his honor against Sir Alex Ferguson, and it is not undisputed that on Wednesday night he will face Manchester United against whom he will face in his fifth final.
At one of the coaches’ meetings in Nyon, when he was manager of Valencia, Emery spoke about UEFA’s second game. Ferguson asked me, “But wouldn’t you like to win the Champions League?” And I said: “Yes of course, but the Europa League is a place where many teams, fans and players can find important recognition”. ‘
He told Marca in an interview on Tuesday: ‘Now United have been playing the Europa League for many years, hoping to win it, and sometimes he has to win it to get to the Champions League. That’s what brought the Europa League closer to the Champions League. ‘
Unai Emery gets off Villarreal’s plane after landing in Gdansk on Tuesday afternoon
Emery previously defended the Europa League against Manchester United legend Sir Alex Ferguson
Emery is immensely proud of his record so far, but you feel that beating Manchester United, with that Ferguson talk in mind, will mean more to him than any of his previous successes. His first two wins in the race were Benfica and Dnipro. Liverpool surpassed both wins.
“They were out of place in next season’s Europa League and next season’s Champions League,” he says. “It is a competition that has grown enormously and now has a lot of value.”
Part of the reason it’s come this far since the days when Spurs fans teased Arsenal supporters with songs like, ‘Oh what a night, watching Tottenham on a Tuesday night. You play on Thursday because you are f ****** s ****. What a feeling, what an evening ‘, is that the Conference League is the new ugly duckling.
The problem for Emery is that after finishing seventh in LaLiga, next season’s Conference will be Villarreal’s fate if they lose in Gdansk. It’s hard to imagine Emery managing to spark the same enthusiasm for it.
Emery has already reached four finals – he has won three – and this is his fifth showdown
“ It’s a new game and when we’re in it we’ll try to win it, ” he has said, but he’s no longer a young coach, fresh off Almeria’s 2007 promotion and blinding everyone with his smart routines on it. training field. and his detailed study of the opposition.
He is now a veteran of Seville, Valencia, Arsenal and Paris Saint Germain and wants to be seen as one of Europe’s best coaches. He passed Giovanni Trapattoni for most of the games coached in the Europa League in the quarter finals of this year’s tournament. If he wins it this week, he’ll pass Trapattoni again – they’ve both lifted the 15kg of silver three times, no one has done it four times.
Villarreal hired him late last season after firing their manager Javi Calleja. It was a brave move after Calleja, a former player and youth team coach at the club, delivered qualification for the Europa League.
Villarreal players celebrate beating Emery’s former side Arsenal in the semi-finals earlier this month
It was also a statement of ambition – veterans of four semifinal defeats and a LaLiga spot in second place finally wanted to win something. “He had a cache,” said Fernado Roig, CEO of Villarreal Sportsmail this week. ‘We were used to coaches at the start of their careers; he had already been to some big clubs. ‘
The gamble paid off back in the days when history was made when they knocked out Arsenal to reach the final.
League form perhaps suffered with the focus often on Europe. They took 13 draws in LaLiga and a nagging inability to beat teams from the top four put them in seventh place.
There are many promising signs for next season with center-forward Gerard Moreno, the Spanish top scorer in LaLiga and 23-year-old center-back Pau Torres, the young defender that all major clubs in Europe are looking to.
Emery celebrates at the end of the Europa League final 2016, in which Sevilla beat Liverpool
Over the weekend against Madrid, they kept the ball brilliantly in the first half, frustrating their opponents and taking a 1-0 lead. The underlying inconsistency that has plagued them all season saw the pace drop in the second half and Zinedine Zidane’s team had 2-1 winners.
No one will remember that or the league’s flaws as they take the trophy back to Villarreal’s 50,000 residents and catapult themselves from the conference to next season’s Champions League.
You never quite know what you’ll get from Emery on a big night. For each of those three Europa Leagues won, there is either a Champions League failure at PSG or the nagging failure to beat Chelsea in last season’s final. A match that Emery says he never looked back because Chelsea was ‘just better’ than his team in the second period.
Manchester United players train in Gdansk as they prepare to face Villarreal tonight
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s side is the favorite to win Emery’s team’s match
The only thing that can be guaranteed is that he won’t fall short in terms of a desire to overcome the odds.
“A lot can happen in a final of 90 minutes, 120 minutes or even penalties,” he told Marca. ‘United will have its moments, Villarreal will have its moments, let’s see who gets the most out of it. It would be normal for them to have more moments than we do, but we have to make sure they don’t get too many and take advantage of ours. Normally the favorite wins, but we have a chance. ‘
He knows his team is the outsiders this time around, but that – and beating Sir Alex’s former club – will only add to the feat. If he does, he’ll be alone as the manager with four Europa Leagues – don’t try to tell him that’s not that important.