Europa League semi-final draw: Expect Manchester United to meet Lyon in the final

After the Europa League semi-final draw, Ian Hakwey evaluates the match-ups.

Former Arsenal midfielder and the current Ajax director of football Marc Overmars, left, was on hand to help the Europa League semi-final draw. (Jean-Christophe Bott /  AP Photo
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The Europa League trophy has been Spanish property for five of the last seven years, a run of success which passed the north-west region of Galicia by.

Indeed, Celta Vigo were in the second division only five years ago. That they have reached the last four of a major competition against that background is to their great credit.

That they reached the Europa League semi-finals — eliminating Genk — without either extra time or even penalties on Thursday night counts as another feather in their cap.

Each of the other teams needed tie-breakers to come through.


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Celta’s next challenge, though, is a stiff one against a Manchester United whose manager, Jose Mourinho may have derided the Europa League in the past but values it now, as a potential ticket into the group stage of the next Uefa Champions League for the winning club; and a possible trophy, too, for a United in need of more affirming silverware to add to this season’s League Cup.

United, though they have injury concerns over Zlatan Ibrahimovic among others, should have the class to reach the final, to be staged in Ibrahimovic’s native Sweden.

Both Ajax and Lyon, who meet in the other semi-final, could also do with the lift a Europa League title provides towards a place in the next Champions League group phase.

Lyon will not get there via the French league table; Ajax are currently shy of top spot in their Eredivisie.

Both clubs overcame stiff tests to reach the last four of this tournament, a young Ajax down to 10 men against Schalke in the second leg of their quarter-final on Thursday, Lyon taken to a penalty shoot-out away at Besiktas the same night.

Suspensions may hinder the Dutch club, and Lyon certainly have the edge on experience.

Prediction: Manchester United and Lyon to reach the final

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