Villarreal coach Unai Emery has warned his players to expect Manchester United to bite back in the Champions League tonight following the sacking of Ole Gunnar Solskjaer.
United head to El Madrigal needing to respond to another dismal Premier League showing, with Saturday’s 4-1 loss away to Watford a fifth defeat in the last seven in the league and costing the popular Solskjaer his job.
“As a coach, you don’t welcome the news that a colleague has lost his job,” Emery said. “I have a lot of respect for Solskjaer because of his playing and coaching career. I’ve faced Solskjaer several times and above all, I value him as a great person.
“When there’s a coaching change, there’s a reaction one way or another. The focus will be more on the players than on the bench.
“The players know, even though they are professional and must always deliver, that they have to show their faces – for Manchester (United), for the coach that left, and the one that has arrived or will come.
“I expect a very good Manchester United because of their players and the significance of this game.”
The former Arsenal manager, himself strongly linked to a Premier League return with Newcastle before Eddie Howe’s appointment earlier this month, knows United well with today’s match a third meeting in the last six months.
United came from behind to win 2-1 at Old Trafford in September thanks to Cristiano Ronaldo’s stoppage-time strike, but Villarreal were the victors when the sides met in the Europa League final in May – prevailing 11-10 in a remarkable penalty shootout in Gdansk.
Though United will start the match top of Group F, Villarreal are level on points after home and away wins over Young Boys with Atalanta lurking two points behind.
If United win, a place in the knockout stages is theirs, but they could end the night in third place and with work to do against a Young Boys side that beat them in the opening group fixture.
“They will find an extra motivation as it’s the Champions League,” Emery added. “We know they are a strong team.
“They need to win and I don’t think there will be many changes. Perhaps certain tactical ones will be made, but we must be prepared to play against Cristiano Ronaldo, (Harry) Maguire, Bruno Fernandes, (David) De Gea and all the other great players that United have.
“We have an opportunity tomorrow. We just want to compete, show our credentials, and enjoy it.
“Our last two Champions League results were good but we are facing the favourites.”