Manchester United star David de Gea has some 'great' memories in Europa League

Goalkeeper says Erik ten Hag's side will be going all out to get back on track against Sheriff Tiraspol

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The Europa League was David de Gea’s first trophy in club football, the Madrileno still a teenager when he played for Atletico Madrid in their 2010 final win against Fulham in Hamburg.

De Gea moved to Manchester United a year later and has featured more in the Europa League than perhaps he would have expected. United didn’t take part in the competition in the 16 years before he joined them - a spell in which United played Champions League football every single season, winning the competition twice.

In the 12 seasons since De Gea moved to Manchester, United have played in the secondary Uefa competition - one fans used to mock - six times. However, those fans wouldn’t turn their noses up at lifting the Europa League in Budapest next May.

De Gea didn’t play when the team won the competition in 2017, a run to the final masterminded by Jose Mourinho against a young Ajax side. In 2021, he was on the pitch for 120 minutes of the Gdansk final against Villarreal but then saw his penalty, United’s 11th, saved.

Speaking ahead of United’s latest Europa League game against Sheriff Tiraspol on Thursday, De Gea said: “It’s a great competition. Of course in my opinion we should be playing in the Champions League, but this is a competition we have to play for, we will go with everything, I have very good memories.”

Six hundred United fans have tickets for the club’s first ever game in Moldova, while others have travelled to the country of 2.6 million.

United lost their opening group game 1-0 to Real Sociedad last week, while Sheriff won 3-0 away. Their home games have been shifted from the unrecognised breakaway state of Transnistria to the Moldovan capital of Chisinau.

“We lost the first one so we have to try to win the game tomorrow against a difficult team,” said De Gea. “For sure it’s a special competition.”

“They beat Real Madrid last year,” added his manager Erik ten Hag, emphasising United cannot afford any complacency. “They’re capable of doing that, we have to make our game. We have to be ready, prepared for that game, it’s a serious and decent opponent and we have to play our best to get the win.”

United haven’t won a trophy since that 2017 success against Ajax in Stockholm and last week’s defeat increases the pressure.

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“Pressure is for every game, we have to win every game, it’s clear, that when you lose the first game you have to win the second,” said Ten Hag. “We know what our task is.”

Ten Hag had said he will field a strong side for what will be United’s last game until October 2, with Sunday’s home match against Leeds United postponed. United will go 33 days without another Old Trafford encounter before Omonia Nicosia visit from Cyprus on October 13.

“We always play a strong team, so tomorrow we will play a strong team,” said Ten Hag.

Marcus Rashford will not play in the 10,500 capacity Zimbru Stadium, a modern arena to the south of the city.

“He’s not available, a consequence after Arsenal. He has a muscle injury,” said Ten Hag, who doesn’t know how long Rashford will be out. But he added: “I don’t think too long. He’s not injured again. It’s not really bad, we expect him quite soon to be back in the team.”

Ten Hag declined to give any indication about whether Cristiano Ronaldo will feature. His arrival in Moldova has caused excitement and fans are keen to see him on the pitch.

“I’m sorry, but the Moldova fans have to wait until tomorrow,” said his manager. He was more sure when asked if he would take Rashford to the World Cup finals.

“That’s quite obvious and quite clear, yes,” said Ten Hag. “He played really good seasons and I think in this season he had a great comeback and showed his great potential and quality.”

Updated: September 15, 2022, 2:39 AM