Manchester United practice match provides a surprise before Europa League final

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A manager would prefer to keep his cards close to his chest on the eve of a Europa League final and time will tell if Ole Gunnar Solskjaer showed his hand on Tuesday night.

Manchester United’s final training session at Gdansk Stadion was visible to everyone inside the stadium. Usually, Uefa limit open training to 15 minutes but the Covid climate determined everyone present had to be outdoors, with no designated media working roo

Whether you were pitchside or had a bird’s eye view from the press tribune, United’s session was available to watch in its entirety. Harry Maguire, unable to train, stewed in the dugout before he headed down the tunnel, all but confirming his place in the stands on Wednesday night.

Clearly conscious of the audience present, Solskjaer gave nothing away during the short practice match. The teams read:

Henderson, Williams, Tuanzebe, Bailly, Shaw, Van de Beek, Pogba, James, Shoretire, Amad, and Cavani versus De Gea, Wan-Bissaka, Lindelof, Matic, Telles, McTominay, Mata, Greenwood, Fernandes, Rashford, and Elanga. Fred donned a neutral bib, switching sides depending on which one had the ball.

The session lasted around 50 minutes, with Nemanja Matic surprisingly joining the central defensive department in the absence of Maguire. Although Matic has dropped back there before, nobody is seriously expecting him to usurp Bailly or Tuanzebe.

Tuanzebe and Bailly were paired together on the final day of the Premier League season against Wolves and they continued to duel on the same side to make the final. Their team kept a clean sheet in the game that Daniel James scored twice in.

Maguire emerged after all of his teammates and hid under the dugout. He was eventually joined by Solskjaer, who broke off from watching first-team training to sit next to his captain. Maguire headed down the tunnel around 15 minutes into the session but re-emerged, clad in a coat.

As suspected, the assistant manager Mike Phelan is not involved in any of the sessions, run by Michael Carrick, Kieran McKenna and Martyn Pert. Phelan strode out of the tunnel, uploaded a video onto his Twitter account and then joined Maguire.

Following the keep-ball sessions, United honed their crossing and finishing, with Luke Shaw and Daniel James marauding down the left and Aaron Wan-Bissaka and Amad down the right. Centre-backs were pitted against forwards inside the area and Mason Greenwood’s shooting was outstanding.

Solskjaer will sleep on his team before breaking the news to the players on Wednesday morning. Centre half and the right wing are the contentious calls, with David de Gea expected to continue in goal, having started the last four Europa League ties.

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