Man U’s Solskjaer out to avoid hat trick of semifinal pain

COLOGNE, Germany (AP) — Manchester United manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer wants to draw on the “painful” experience of two semifinal defeats this season when his team meets five-time champion Sevilla in Sunday’s Europa League last-four clash.

United was eliminated at the same stage in the English League Cup by Manchester City in January and by Chelsea in the FA Cup last month.

“You know that when you come to a semifinal, you’re playing against big teams, good teams with quality, and it’s time to step up,” Solskjaer said.

“You have to have 100% focus because any little moment can change a game, can win you the game, can lose you the game. And we’ve learned it’s very painful to lose a semifinal.”

Solskjaer added he wants United to put pressure on Sevilla and fight for possession right from the first whistle.

“If you start on the back foot, if you don’t get your first touches, if you don’t get the first tackle in, you’re going searching a little bit,” he said.

United hasn’t scored in the first half in any of its last four games and was taken to extra time by Copenhagen in the Europa League quarterfinals before Bruno Fernandes’ penalty sealed a 1-0 win.

Victory would put United one victory away from its first trophy since winning the Europa League under Jose Mourinho in 2017. But Sevilla is the most successful team in the competition’s history.

Sevilla could add Nemanja Gudelj to the team for the semifinal for the first time since the defensive midfielder tested positive for the coronavirus late last month. Gudelj has since tested negative and arrived in Germany following a period in isolation. He says he did not display any symptoms.

“We’ll see if he plays or not. He’s trained OK and if he has to come out and play, he will be there and help us,” Sevilla coach Julen Lopetegui said through a translator. The Serbia midfielder has played 36 games this season for Sevilla, including 90 minutes in every Europa League game except for the two since his positive test.

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