Manchester United are big favourites to win the Europa League final but Paul Higham says the stats point to Villarreal making a fast start tonight…
Villarreal v Manchester United
Wednesday 26 May, 20:00
Live on BT Sport 1
Only one place to head on Wednesday night and that’s to Gdanski in Poland as Manchester United take on Villarreal for the Europa League trophy.
It’s a huge game for Ole Gunnar Solskjaer as he looks to finally add that piece of silverware that he’s come agonisingly close to bagging over the last season or so.
Unai Emery is a Europa League specialist though, with this being his fifth final in eight years with his third different club – and even sweeter given he beat the club who sacked him in the semi-final with their success over Arsenal.
He famously won the trophy three straight years with Valencia, and now he hopes to follow suit with the Yellow Submarines.
Man Utd are obviously favourites given the huge difference in squad values and given Solskjaer’s side chased home Man City in second in the Premier League.
Villarreal should not be counted out though, and they do represent some sort of value at 4.67/2 to beat the Red Devils, but our stats bet for this game comes in the form of the half-time market.
For just a shade shorter, at 4.57/2, Villarreal surely make some appeal to be leading after 45 minutes of this game – given how they’re fast starters while United have been the polar opposite this season.
Man Utd were behind at the break nine times in the Premier League, and Villarreal have a strong first half record having never been behind after 45 minutes in this competition – being ahead eight times.
Villarreal’s last seven Europa League goals have come in the first half, while 13 of Man Utd’s 18 goals in this competition have come after half time. With United being comeback kings, the Spanish side may not hold on but they’re more than capable of getting in front.
While those stats are enough to have a dabble on the Spanish side to lead at the break, there’s also value in backing them to score the first goal of the final.
United conceded first 14 times in the Premier League last season, and Emery’s men have notched the opener in nine out of 14 Europa League ties this campaign.
It’s 2.77/4 for Villarreal to score first, and given how slow United have started in big games that’s a bet well worth being on.