It’s set up to be one of the finest nights of Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s managerial career, but the match against Roma itself on Thursday is already looking like a non-event.
Not even the impending arrival of Jose Mourinho in the Italian capital is necessarily enough to get mouths watering, given Paulo Fonseca will remain in the hot-seat until the season is out.
However, the dead-rubber feel of this week’s game should not take away from the achievement of last week’s, when United ran riot with five second-half goals at Old Trafford.
It was always clear United would be heavy favourites to win the competition when they were eliminated from the Champions League late last year, but as Solskjaer knows all too well, being favourites alone doesn’t bring silverware about.
Today’s press conference could have been one to savour for the Norwegian as he previews a semi-final knowing his side are all but assured of a place in the final – after all, a Roma side without a win in six games would need to beat them by a margin of four goals to stand a chance of progressing.
However, after the historic fan protests at the weekend it will again be off-field matters which take centre stage, with Solskjaer set to be asked about Sunday’s goings-on outside Old Trafford and The Lowry Hotel.
While the Norwegian coach will be hoping for questions on team news, injury updates and his own pride at reaching a final with United for the first time, he will instead likely be questioned on the Glazers, fan protests and the cancellation of the Liverpool match.
It’s for these reasons Solskjaer might well look to deploy a timely diversion tactic ahead of their dead-rubber match, United’s exciting batch of youngsters might well have given him something else to talk about.
Perhaps Solskjaer’s finest achievement in the last couple of years has come at youth level, with 13 youngsters having already made their senior debuts under the Norwegian.
As well as opportunities on the pitch United have also taken giant strides to secure the long-term futures of some of their hottest talents for the years ahead.
Teden Mengi, Shola Shoretire, Hannibal Mejbri, Anthony Elanga, Zidane Iqbal, Charlie Savage and Marc Jurado have already inked new deals this calendar year, while the likes of Ethan Laird and James Garner might follow suit after impressive loan moves in the Football League this season.
Even with a four-goal safety net it is unlikely Solskjaer will go too rogue with his selection in Rome on Thursday night, but by including a number of the club’s young talents in the squad he could at least spark some interest around the match and divert away from the off-field issues.
The predictable questions about the club’s ownership and the intentions of the Glazer family will likely draw a similarly predictable response from a manager being employed by such under-fire figures, referencing the club’s illustrious youth system could be one way to douse the flames for a couple of hours.
A debut for Elanga and a rare start for Amad would be two easy ways for Solskjaer to at least deflect anger towards those who are to blame for the current state of the club, with the majority of supporters still firmly behind the former striker who they have loved for decades.
The manager has once again been thrown under the bus by owners who aren’t even giving fans the dignity of conversation, but with his philosophy he has the ideal chance to turn the focus back to the pitch for a short while.