Unai Emery says he and his Villarreal side do not fear Manchester United – having beaten them in the Europa League final.
Emery's unfancied side beat United on penalties to win the Europa League last season and prolong Ole Gunnar Solskjaer's wait for a first trophy as Old Trafford boss.
United have lost three of their last four games, including two in a row at Old Trafford – and host bogey team Villarreal in their second Group F fixture tomorrow.
Emery says United hold no fear for Villarreal and that he sympathises with the pressure Solskjaer is under, having gone through a similar experience at Arsenal, where he was sacked after 18 months.
Image:UEFA via Getty Images)
“I’m not afraid of Manchester United,” said Emery. “We respect them and respect is important. If you lose respect, you may lose.
“United are the clear favourites. They were also the favourites in the final.
“What Solskjaer has done for United, as a player and as a coach, we have to respect.
“We don’t fear them, but we have a high respect for the opponent.”
Asked about the pressure on Solskjaer, who has suffered back-to-back home defeats to West Ham and Aston Villa, as well as losing the group stage opener to Young Boys, Emery said he understood what he is going through.
“I’ve lived that when I was in Arsenal,” said Emery. “Solskjaer is a former United player and a head coach, who has a lot of support and a lot of respect.
"Last year he managed to enter the Champions League and reach the final of the Europa League.
"This year he has many challenges ahead and it's true that he's had some negative results, but I don't think that an intelligent direction will change their opinion about him for those results.
“This will be a different match to the final. There may be certain characteristics and individual characteristics that will be still there, but it will change.
“That United team from the final also has Jadon Sancho, Raphael Varane and Cristano Ronaldo, so if they were very good then, they have improved even more.
“They are the favourites, if we see the squad one by one and take into account what Manchester United represents in history.
“And they have improved more with three great players to what they had in May. They are the favourites in the group stage.”Read More Read More