Manchester United vs AS Roma โ€” 5 Key Players to watch out for | UEFA Europa League 2020/21

Sevilla v Manchester United - UEFA Europa League Semi Final
Sevilla v Manchester United - UEFA Europa League Semi Final
Sai Teja

Premier League giants Manchester United prepare to host Italian side AS Roma at Old Trafford in the first leg of the UEFA Europa League semi-final

The fixture marks the Red Devils' second attempt at winning the European competition in as many years as they made it to the last four in 2019/20 as well, where they were knocked out by record champions Sevilla. However, they will fancy their chances this time around as they are the only semi-finalists to have previously won the competition.

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer's side are set to come up against two of their old teammates in Henrikh Mkhitaryan and Chris Smalling, who have gone on to do very well since leaving Manchester United. The Giallorossi finished in fifth place last season and will hope to go on and win the UEL to book a place in next year's UCL, given that they're currently seventh on the table.

With Manchester United's place in Europe's premier competition all but sealed with a second-place finish, they will hope to round off their impressive campaign with a piece of silverware to show for. Ahead of the game, here are five players to keep an eye on during Manchester United's encounter with AS Roma.

#5 David de Gea | Manchester United

Manchester United v Granada CF - UEFA Europa League Quarter Final: Leg Two
Manchester United v Granada CF - UEFA Europa League Quarter Final: Leg Two

Dean Henderson's rise to prominence at Manchester United has come at the expense of one of the club's longest-serving players, David de Gea. The Spanish veteran has long been the Red Devils' go-to custodian but his high-profile errors over the last few years, coupled with Henderson's return, have led to him being demoted to second choice.

With rumours suggesting he could leave the club come summer and with questions over his ability at the highest level, De Gea โ€” should he continue to start in goal in the Europa League โ€” must be at his absolute best to silence his critics despite being the second choice keeper.

De Gea had a horror showing in the FA Cup semi-final last year, having been at fault for two out of the three goals they conceded against Chelsea. Will he step up to the occasion during this semi-final?

#4 Henrikh Mkhitaryan | AS Roma

AS Roma v UC Sampdoria - Serie A
AS Roma v UC Sampdoria - Serie A

Henrikh Mkhitaryan is one of two former Red Devils players who could be set for a homecoming on Thursday night. After a torrid time in North London and Manchester, the Armenian ace has earned himself a new lease of life since moving to the Italian capital.

The versatile 32-year-old has appeared over 60 times for the Giallorossi, scoring 20 times and setting up a further 17. He opened up about his ill-fated spell at Old Trafford and took a thinly-veiled shot ahead of game, saying;

"I won three trophies which was amazing. Some players have been playing in Manchester for ages but they haven't won anything."

Mkhitaryan will face the club he won his only Europa League title with on Thursday, but it remains to be seen if he can replicate the impact from four years ago for his new side. The Armenian scored for Manchester United in the final against Ajax back in 2016/17.

Also read: 5 Players who can replace Nemanja Matic at Manchester United

#3 Paul Pogba | Manchester United

Manchester United v Aston Villa - Premier League
Manchester United v Aston Villa - Premier League

After an injury-ridden 2019/20 campaign, Paul Pogba appears to have got back to his sublime best in 2020/21 and has been vital for Manchester United across all fronts. He's managed to win games for his side as he scored or created some of their most vital goals of the season, including a second-half winner against AC Milan to fire the Red Devils through to the quarter-finals.

The French superstar also created Edinson Cavani's winner against Granada in the last eight to put the tie to bed. Having been rested for their most recent league game against Leeds United, Pogba is in line to start against Roma and he is likely to feature as a left-sided attacking midfielder, much like he has on numerous occasions this season.

Pogba has enough creative prowess and ability on the ball to make the difference for Manchester United, and is comfortably one of the biggest threats to Paulo Fonseca's men heading into the game.

#2 Edin Dzeko | AS Roma

Benevento Calcio v AS Roma - Serie A
Benevento Calcio v AS Roma - Serie A

Apart from two of their former teammates, Manchester United are also set to come up against one of their old foes in Edin Dzeko. The former Manchester City star has caused the Red Devils an immense amount of damage in the past, and knows exactly what it takes to score against them on their own turf.

During his five years with the Red Devils' fierce rivals, Dzeko has found the back of the net six times in Premier League Manchester derbies. The Bosnian bagged a late brace in City's infamous 6-1 drubbing of United at Old Trafford in 2013.

Dzeko hasn't been at his prolific best this year but still has an impressive four goals and an assist in eight UEL games so far, and played a crucial role in helping them reach the semi-finals. The 35-year-old will hope to help Roma cause a major upset and get one over his former rivals.

#1 Bruno Fernandes | Manchester United

Granada CF v Manchester United - UEFA Europa League Quarter Final: Leg One
Granada CF v Manchester United - UEFA Europa League Quarter Final: Leg One

For all his merits and accomplishments in a Manchester United shirt, there's one thing that Bruno Fernandes is yet to achieve, which is to win silverware. The Portuguese superstar has, perhaps, been the most vocal among any Red Devils players about their hunger for trophies since his very first interview upon joining the club.

Manchester United have failed to get past the semi-final stage on four separate occasions under Solskjaer, three of them with Fernandes in the side, but against Roma, they will hope to turn their poor streak of cup runs around. Fernandes will be key in helping them achieve this goal.

On a personal note, he has also received criticism for his displays in some of their biggest games of the season by analysts and supporters alike, which is something the 26-year-old will look to change. On his day, Bruno Fernandes is capable of single-handedly changing the course of a game and winning it for his club, and it remains to be seen if the talismanic Portuguese can do so on Thursday night.

Also read: 5 Best Manchester United comebacks this season (2020/21)

Edited by Sai Teja

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