COLOGNE (Reuters) - Sevilla coach Julen Lopetegui believes Manchester United are back to their best ahead of Sunday’s Europa League semi-final, where the Spaniards will be targeting their fourth appearance in the competition’s showpiece in the last seven years.
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s side may have laboured to a 1-0 extra-time win over Copenhagen to reach the last four and appeared ragged in their last few games in the Premier League, but Lopetegui has been impressed by their resilience.
“I think this United side are the best of the last few years,” Lopetegui told a news conference on Saturday ahead of the semi-final in Cologne.
“They’ve found their football, they have not lost since January in the Premier League, which is such a competitive league, and they are in the right place.
“They’re a complete team in many respects and we are going to have to play a great game if we are going to be able to compete with them.”
Lopetegui’s side have already knocked out Premier League opposition in the one-off tournament in Germany, organised after the COVID-19 pandemic postponed the original competition, edging out Wolverhampton Wanderers 1-0 in the quarter-finals.
The 52-year-old has had an eventful and painful last few years as a manager, being sacked as Spain coach on the eve of the 2018 World Cup for negotiating a move to Real Madrid, who then disposed of him four months later.
But he has hit on a winning formula in his first season in charge of Sevilla, leading them to finish fourth in La Liga and qualify for the Champions League for the first time in three years.
His side are Europa League specialists, winning the competition a record five times, including three consecutive triumphs between 2014 and 2016.
“We like playing important and exciting games like this one, it’s what we’ve been working towards and fighting for throughout the season,” he added.
“This is a huge game and we’ll make sure we’re at our best.”
Reporting by Richard Martin; Editing by Christian Radnedge
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