MX23RW : Friday, July 30 15:01:28| >> :60:2340:2340:
Apr 29, 2021 at 8pm UK at Old Trafford
Man UtdManchester United
Fernandes (9', 71' pen.), Cavani (48', 64'), Pogba (75'), Greenwood (86')
Pogba (51')
FT(HT: 1-2)
Pellegrini (15' pen.), Dzeko (34')
Villar (50'), Smalling (61')

Preview: Manchester United vs. Roma - prediction, team news, lineups

Sports Mole previews Thursday's Europa League clash between Manchester United and Roma, including predictions, team news and possible lineups.

Competition favourites Manchester United host Serie A side Roma in the first leg of their Europa League semi-final on Thursday, with the tie set to play a large role in defining both clubs' seasons.

Coming into their fifth semi-final since the start of last year, United have yet to progress to a final during that time, while the under-performing Italian outfit arrive at Old Trafford on a run of just one victory from their last seven league games.

Match preview

Marcus Rashford takes a free kick for Manchester United against Leeds United in the Premier League on April 25, 2021© Reuters

In the semi-finals for the second successive year, Manchester United have been imperious in Europa League action since dropping down from the Champions League, as they previously dismissed Spanish sides Real Sociedad and Granada 4-0 on aggregate and saw off Roma's Serie A counterparts AC Milan in between.

Though they have already lost four semis during boss Ole Gunnar Solskjaer's relatively brief reign - including last season's one-off tie with Sevilla - the Red Devils are now favourites to lift their first trophy since 2017's final success under Jose Mourinho.

Not only are they the only Premier League side still within 10 points of their irrepressible local rivals Manchester City, but United are also unbeaten in their last 17 home games in the Europa League (winning 13 and drawing four), and had won five in a row in the competition before two draws earlier this spring.

Always a source of inspiration for Solskjaer's side, Bruno Fernandes has consistently excelled in this competition - with a remarkable 17 goals and 11 assists from 30 Europa League outings for United and former club Sporting.

The Portuguese playmaker featured for a full 90 minutes in United's weekend stalemate with old foes Leeds United - despite Solskjaer omitting both Paul Pogba and Edinson Cavani ahead of Thursday's big game - as his team extended their unbeaten away record in the English top flight to 24 matches.

Following the white-hot controversy of last week, United now face Roma twice in the space of seven days - with an Old Trafford fixture against bitter rivals Liverpool awkwardly wedged in between - as they attempt to end a run of semi-final failures and earn their place in a major final on merit.

Roma forward Edin Dzeko pictured on April 15, 2021© Reuters

Since the Europa League's return in February, Italy's last side standing in continental competition have hit a domestic downturn, which reached its nadir last Sunday as Roma crashed to a 3-2 defeat against relegation battlers Cagliari. Coming just a week after losing to Torino - another team at the wrong end of Serie A - Paulo Fonseca is acutely aware that any hopes of saving his job rest on going all the way in Europe.

Balancing their continental ambitions with achieving domestic consistency has, then, proved beyond Fonseca's seventh-placed outfit in recent times, with their whole campaign now to be judged against whether they can reach the club's first European final in 30 years.

Visiting the Theatre of Dreams may give Roma nightmares though, as Fonseca has been particularly concerned by his team's inability to replicate positive performances at Stadio Olimpico when away from Italy's Eternal City: the Giallorossi have now won just one of their last eight league matches on the road.

Former captain Edin Dzeko has faltered since an aborted attempt to leave in January and a subsequent brush with COVID-19 - failing to find the net in any of his last 12 Serie A appearances - his longest domestic drought in some 13 years.

In the build-up to Thursday's game, the former Manchester City frontman acknowledged that United are favourites to progress to the final, but also stated his team's steadfast belief that they can make next month's showpiece finale in Gdansk.

Certainly, having kicked off their campaign by comfortably topping Group A in the autumn, since the knockout rounds commenced the Giallorossi have disposed of their previous opponents quite straightforwardly - though Ajax were perhaps unfortunate to be ousted in the quarter-finals - with a total of five wins from six since the action resumed in February.

Roma's Borja Mayoral pictured in March 2021© Reuters

Spanish striker Borja Mayoral - on loan from Real Madrid - has registered four goals across the knockout rounds to become the competition's joint-top marksman this season, with seven in total, and has often outshone his more experienced teammate Dzeko.

Partly thanks to Mayoral's penalty-box prowess, his current club have now made it into the Europa League's final four for the first time and arrive in England not only in search of some rare silverware, but also aiming stay in with a shot of securing the Champions League spot reserved for next month's winners.

While current form is definitely against the Giallorossi, precedent is too, as United and Roma have been paired together three times previously in UEFA competition (with their six Champions League encounters curiously taking place within a 12-month period from April 2007 to April 2008) and the Italians' record makes grim reading.

In fact, Roma have won only one of their 17 previous European fixtures in England, losing ten of those games - including three at Old Trafford.

Manchester United Europa League form:
  • W
  • D
  • D
  • W
  • W
  • W

Manchester United form (all competitions):
  • W
  • W
  • W
  • W
  • W
  • D

Roma Europa League form:
  • W
  • W
  • W
  • W
  • W
  • D

Roma form (all competitions):
  • W
  • W
  • D
  • L
  • D
  • L

Team News

Roma defender Chris Smalling pictured warming up on November 5, 2020© Reuters

Manchester United old boy Chris Smalling made his first start in over a month at the weekend and is now considered a candidate to start against his former club on Thursday. After missing nine games due to a lingering knee injury, Smalling's comeback is particularly welcome for Roma coach Paulo Fonseca, as central defensive regular Gianluca Mancini must serve a suspension.

Wing-back Leonardo Spinazzola and striker Stephan El Shaarawy also returned to the bench on Sunday after overcoming injury, so the former could also be thrust back into the starting lineup as the latter takes a place on the bench.

Former Chelsea forward Pedro, however, is set to miss the first leg with a thigh strain, while young Riccardo Calafiori has been struggling with a similar problem and may miss out again.

Much-heralded primavera product Nicolo Zaniolo is yet to recover full fitness after tearing his ACL last September, with his comeback now not expected until the final weeks of the season. Former Red Devil Henrikh Mkhitaryan - with 11 goals and 11 assists so far this season - made his return from injury troubles last week, though, and should start after only participating as a substitute versus Cagliari.

The home side have fewer absences by comparison, as Harry Maguire, Luke Shaw and Scott McTominay all served one-match suspensions during the quarter-final second leg victory over Granada and are available to feature once again.

Manchester United's only absentees, therefore, are injury-related, with Anthony Martial and Phil Jones both still missing due to long-term knee problems.

Manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer left both Paul Pogba and Edinson Cavani out of his lineup to face Leeds United last time out, so the experienced European campaigners are set to come back into the XI, as Daniel James and Mason Greenwood potentially make way. Meanwhile, Marcus Rashford overcame a foot injury which kept him out of training last week to start on Sunday and should line up in support of ex-Napoli man Cavani.

Manchester United possible starting lineup:
De Gea; Wan-Bissaka, Lindelof, Maguire, Shaw; Fred, McTominay; Pogba, Fernandes, Rashford; Cavani

Roma possible starting lineup:
Lopez; Cristante, Smalling, Ibanez; Karsdorp, Diawara, Veretout, Spinazzola; Pellegrini, Mkhitaryan; Dzeko

SM words green background

We say: Manchester United 2-0 Roma

A fascinating clash of cultures is in store over the course of this tie, as possession-orientated Roma - who have conceded more than anyone else in the top half of Serie A - encounter a Manchester United side that are at their most dangerous on the counter.

Confidence is certainly higher in the hosts' camp though, as the Giallorossi have stumbled their way through spring while in-form United continue to find goals from a variety of sources, so the English club can establish a useful lead to take to Rome next week.

Top tip

Our expert tipster partners at are predicting under 3.5 goals in this match. Click here to find out what else they are predicting for this game and for more of their tried-and-tested football tips.Under 3.5:data

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Manchester United manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer pictured on March 18, 2021
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Friday's key events

· The athletics schedule begins, with 100m sprinter Dina Asher-Smith among the names in action on the opening day. The men's 10,000m final concludes the action, with Team GB's Sam Atkin and Marc Scott taking part in the absence of 2012 and 2016 champion Sir Mo Farah (1am-2.30pm)

· Victoria Thornley is Team GB's representative in the women's single sculls final (1.33am)
· Great Britain will be going for gold in the men's eight final (2.25am)

· Team GB duo Molly Renshaw and Abbie Wood take part in the women's 200m breaststroke final, but new Olympic record-holder Tatjana Schoenmaker of South Africa is the hot favourite (2.41am)
· Luke Greenbank has very realistic ambitions of picking up a medal in the men's 200m backstroke final (2.50am)
· There is also British representation in the women's 100m freestyle final, although any medal for Anna Hopkin would be a surprise (2.59am)
· With one gold and one silver already under his belt at these Games, Duncan Scott goes again in the men's 200m individual medley final (3.16am)

· Bryony Page will be looking to repeat her 2016 heroics in the women's event (5am-7.30pm)

· Bradley Forbes-Cryans will be looking to emulate Rio gold medallist Joe Clarke in the men's kayak event (6am-9am)

· The women's tournament enters the quarter-finals, with Great Britain facing Australia at the Ibaraki Kashima Stadium (10am)

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