Clubs


Manchester United‘s long 2019-20 campaign came to an end with a 2-1 defeat against Sevilla in the quarterfinals of the Europa League last week and with it went Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s last shot at a first piece of silverware as United manager for this season.

Just to rub it in, several ex-Old Trafford players have progressed further than their former club to stand just one game away from European glory, as Inter meet Sevilla in Friday’s Europa League final and Paris Saint-Germain face Bayern Munich in the Champions League decider two days later.

No fewer than five participants in this weekend’s games either failed to cut the mustard at United or were allowed to leave in search of brighter tomorrows, while more than a few others have been linked with the 20-time English champions down the years.

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Man United’s Europa League exit sets records

PARIS SAINT-GERMAIN

Herrera was the first signing made under Louis van Gaal, when United spent £28.8 million to recruit the Spaniard from Athletic Bilbao in 2014 after failing to land him the previous summer after David Moyes took charge.

The tenacious midfielder spent five seasons at Old Trafford where he won an FA Cup and appeared in a European final, playing his part in United’s 2-0 win over Ajax in the 2016-17 Europa League success under Jose Mourinho.

After gradually falling out of favour, Herrera was allowed to join PSG on a free transfer last summer. He was initially unable to force his way into the first-team reckoning, but started both the quarterfinals and semifinals of the Champions League mini-tournament in Lisbon.

There was much fanfare when Di Maria arrived at United from Real Madrid in 2014 in a marquee transfer worth an initial £59.7m.

However, after one tumultuous year in England during which Di Maria failed to settle, he left Old Trafford tagged as a flop despite registering 10 assists and three goals in the Premier League.

– Ogden: United’s post-Fergusion signings — good, bad and ugly

The deal taking him to Paris was worth €63m and the winger nicknamed “El Fideo” (“The Noodle”) sprang back into life with no fewer than 15 trophies (including five Ligue 1 titles) won in the space of five years.

INTER MILAN

In a deal worth £75m, Lukaku signed for United from Everton in the summer of 2017, with the striker agreeing a five-year contract to become the club’s new No.9 and link up with his pal Paul Pogba.

The Belgium international lasted just two seasons in which his form peaked and troughed, though he ended his United stint with a decent scoring record of 42 goals in 96 appearances.

– Schoenfeld: Lukaku on a mission to prove Man United wrong

Lukaku was joined Inter in a deal worth €80m by coach Antonio Conte, whose lengthy pursuit of the striker began while he was still in charge at Chelsea.

The 27-year-old forward has struck up a great partnership with Lautaro Martinez and scored 33 goals in 50 games; ahead of Sunday’s final, Lukaku has netted in 10 straight Europa League games.

It’s perhaps a little unfortunate, but Sanchez is likely to go down in history as one of the worst bits of transfer business in Premier League club history, after United went to great lengths to muscle Manchester City out of the reckoning when it came to signing Sanchez from Arsenal in January 2018.

Henrikh Mkhitaryan formed the other half of a high-profile swap deal, though neither the wispish Armenia forward nor his Chilean counterpart, who was handed a gargantuan contract worth around £400,000 a week before bonuses, came out of the deal smelling of roses.

Sanchez spent the next year-and-a-half stinking out the joint, making 45 appearances for United and scoring just five goals, before joining Inter on loan last season.

The highs and (mostly) lows of Alexis Sanchez’s United career

He scored on his Nerazzurri debut but was sent off in the same game, with things soon fizzling out again as Sanchez went on to add just two more goals in 29 appearances for the Italian club.

Still, that didn’t dissuade them from signing the 31-year-old on a permanent deal recently, after United agreed to cancel the remaining two years of his contract.

When the England international moved to United in 2011, then-manager Sir Alex Ferguson knew he was getting one of the most versatile players in the Premier League.

Sure enough, Young went onto become a venerable stalwart under several different regimes, pitching in with vital goals and assists while winning a Premier League title, an FA Cup, a League Cup and a Europa League as he evolved from pacey winger to sturdy full-back.

It came as something of a shock when, at the age of 34, Inter came calling in January and Young made the late-career switch to Serie A. In a short time, though, he has been a valuable starter for Conte.

BAYERN MUNICH

Munich went sauntering into the Champions League final by virtue of a comfortable 3-0 semifinal win over Lyon (who have ex-United men Memphis Depay and Rafael in their squad).

The Bavarians don’t have any Old Trafford alumni themselves, but United have been heavily linked with a number of Bayern players in the past, with the likes of David Alaba and Kingsley Coman mentioned this summer.

Jerome Boateng revealed he turned down the chance to join them in 2018 and United also came up short in 2015 with their efforts to lure Thomas Muller, who admitted that he gave consideration to joining Louis van Gaal’s side.

SEVILLA

As with Bayern, Sevilla don’t have any former United players in their current squad (not after Javier “Chicharito” Hernandez made his January move to LA Galaxy, anyway). However, they do have a number of ex-Premier League players who spent time with United’s direct rivals.

Man City may have struggled to make it over the latter hurdles in the Europe again this year, but Fernando and Jesus Navas will both be involved with Los Rojiblancos, while Suso (once of Liverpool) is also likely to feature.

Elsewhere, ex-City defender Boateng will doubtlessly be turning out in the Champions League final for Bayern having only made the Europa League Round of 16 during a single season at the Etihad.

Meanwhile, Leroy Sane will be watching on from the wings having completed his transfer from City to Bayern in July, thus rendering him ineligible to take part in the remainder of this season’s competition.


Can PSG take final chance to claim incredible Quadruple?

Sunday will see a new addition to the honours board of Europe’s Treble winners.

The German giants have already sewn up the Bundesliga title and DFB-Pokal, but their French opponents have gone one better. As well as claiming Ligue 1 and the Coupe de France, PSG also won the last-ever Coupe de la Ligue.

– Laurens: The lunch that put PSG on path to UCL final

Only one other European side has ever pulled off the Quadruple before. Celtic‘s revered team of 1966-67, otherwise known as “The Lisbon Lions,” won all there was to win that season: The European Cup, the Scottish First Division, the Scottish Cup and the Scottish League Cup (as well as the slightly less stellar Glasgow Cup).

Either way, whoever wins in Lisbon this time will earn membership of the Treble club alongside Celtic (1966-67), Ajax (1971-72), PSV Eindhoven (1987-88), Man United (1998-99), and Inter (2009-10). Should Bayern triumph, they will join an even more exclusive strata of teams to have won the Treble twice, having already done so in 2012-13.

As things stand, only one club has won a domestic league / domestic cup / Champions League Treble on two separate occasions: Barcelona, in 2008-09 and then again 2014-15. However, it’s perhaps also worth noting that three other Champions League finals have acted as “treble playoffs” in the past and Bayern have lost two of them (vs. Man United in 1998-99 and vs. Inter in 2009-10)

The other “playoff final” came in 2014-15 when Barcelona overcame Juventus.



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