Gary Neville talks up Villarreal star who could make life difficult for McTominay and Fred

Manchester United are favourites for the Europa League final but Villarreal are a very good side who cannot be taken lightly one bit.

United legend and Sky Sports pundit Gary Neville has told the Athletic about the threat posed by their midfielder Dani Parejo.

Neville was briefly Parejo’s manager at Valencia during the 2015/16 season and was impressed with his ability on the ball.

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“He’s an exceptional player,” said Neville of Parejo. “Dani is the type of player who could play for Pep Guardiola at Manchester City or could have played for Luis Enrique at Barcelona.

“He couldn’t play in a Jurgen Klopp or Sir Alex Ferguson team which relied on getting from box to box and moving the ball quickly and not taking too many touches, but he could play in a Pep Guardiola team — he’s that good.”

“I’d imagine he’s happy now and that’s very good for Villarreal and very dangerous for United. He won’t care about Fred or Scott McTominay, he’s a better player than both.

“He’s not in the same class as Bruno Fernandes but he can play like Bruno — he takes the ball. He’ll play the passes that can set up chances to win the game, he’ll slow the game down, he’s experienced, he’ll win free kicks.”

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Many United fans won’t know much about Parejo, but Neville’s words should act as fair warning.

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer will of course have watched him and Villarreal extensively and should have a plan to stop him controlling the game.

He won the 2019 Copa del Rey with Valencia, so knows what it takes to get over the line in a final – which is experience someone like McTominay doesn’t have yet.

United will need to be at their very best to get the job done tonight and win the first trophy of the Solskjaer era at Old Trafford.

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Sam Preston is an NCTJ gold standard news and sports journalist who studied with the Press Association. He also has a 2:1 law with French law degree from the University of Birmingham, which included a year studying at Bordeaux Montaigne University. He is an FA Level 1 football coach who appeared on the BBC’s Victoria Derbyshire show in 2018 and has also written digital football content and match-day programme pieces for Colchester United, Mansfield Town and Stockport County.