Manchester United return to the Europa League final on Wednesday, four years after Jose Mourinho guided the club to a 2-0 win over Ajax and its first title in the competition.
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has since replaced ‘The Special One’ at Old Trafford and hopes to get the better of Villarreal in Gdansk, but the manager is far from the only change since 2017.
In fact, just four of those who started in Solna are still on the books at United, while others from that side have left to play in different countries, continents, or retired from the sport altogether.
The Europa League has offered Sergio Romero sanctuary since he joined United in 2015, and Mourinho kept faith in the Argentinian for the 2017 final despite having David De Gea in reserve.
Any hopes of establishing a foothold in the goalkeeper pecking order were hurt this season after Dean Henderson returned to further increase competition between the posts at Old Trafford.
Romero, 34, has made just seven Premier League appearances in six years at United and looks motivated to end his tenure with the Red Devils this summer.
The only member of United’s starting XI from 2017 who’s no longer playing, Antonio Valencia confirmed his retirement earlier in May following a short stint with Mexican club Queretaro.
Valencia played for two more seasons in Manchester following their Europa League title, celebrating a decade with United before joining LDU Quito in his native Ecuador in 2019.
A European title under Mourinho represented the pinnacle of Matteo Darmian’s time at Old Trafford, but the former outcast has since reached new heights with Inter Milan.
The full-back joined now-relegated Parma in September 2019 but was sent on loan to the San Siro one year later, where he helped the Nerazzurri loosen Juventus’ grip on the Serie A title.
Inter are expected to make Darmian’s temporary switch permanent this summer, giving the Louis van Gaal signing hope of more accolades to come in his native Italy.
Another of United’s recent exports to Serie A, Chris Smalling remained a prominent part of United’s defence for two more seasons after the Europa League win before he headed for the exit.
The former England centre-back quickly became a hit at Roma after moving to Italy on loan for the 2019/20 campaign, impressing the Giallorossi enough to make the move permanent one year later.
Daley Blind played just one more season at United before leaving Old Trafford to rejoin Ajax in 2018. There, he was part of the team that suffered a last-gasp comeback defeat to Tottenham in the Champions League semi-finals during his first term back in Amsterdam.
The Netherlands international has topped the Eredivisie in each of his three campaigns since moving back to Ajax, though the 2019/20 title was not awarded after COVID-19 ended the season early.
A fan favourite during his time at Old Trafford, Ander Herrera’s 2019 transfer to Paris Saint-Germain was criticised by some United fans who felt the midfielder deserved a new contract.
The Spaniard was named Man of the Match in the Europa League triumph over Ajax, as well as being nominated United’s Player of the Season for the 2016/17 campaign.
Injuries hampered his first season at PSG, but utility Herrera started in last year’s Champions League final defeat to Bayern Munich and has become a firm fixture in the team this season.
The 2016/17 season was a high point in the United career of Marouane Fellaini, who ended his five-and-a-half-year stay at Old Trafford when he departed for China in February 2019.
It was then that the Belgian completed a winter transfer to Shandong Luneng, where he scored a career-high 13 goals in his first year and went on to lift the 2020 Chinese FA Cup.
For all the highs and lows of his second United stint, Paul Pogba is back in the good books at Old Trafford and thriving under Solskjaer, although speculation of a second exit continues to swirl.
Pogba netted the opening goal against Ajax four years ago but has failed to kick on as hoped since that first season back in Manchester.
The 2018 World Cup winner has made 41 appearances across all competitions this term and will be expected to start in his second trip to the Europa League final.
Want to be on the ball with all of the latest football news?
Well then sign up for the brilliant Daily Star football email newsletter!
From the latest transfer news to the agenda-setting stories, get it all in your email inbox – don’t miss a thing.
How do you sign up?
It only takes a matter of seconds.
Simply type your email address into the box at the top of this article and hit ‘subscribe’.
And that’s it, job done. You’ll receive an email with all of the top news stories every single morning.
You can find out more information on our email newsletter on this link here.
Juan Mata could sign off his seven-and-a-half-year United career with a title win on Wednesday, the Spaniard potentially heading for free agency after the clash against Villarreal.
The 33-year-old has made only 10 starts this season, which is his lowest involvement in a single campaign at Old Trafford by some distance.
Mata’s contract is due to expire in June, and although United have the option to extend his terms until 2022, the club may deem one of their longest-serving stars surplus to requirements.
Although Henrikh Mkhitaryan never quite lived up to expectations at United, the Armenian has rediscovered his best at Roma, where he will reunite with Mourinho next season.
The 32-year-old found his way to the Stadio Olimpico via an 18-month detour at Arsenal and has impressed as one of the Giallorossi’s most reliable midfield assets during his two seasons in Italy.
Mkhitaryan—who scored in the Europa League final against Ajax—initially joined Roma on loan from Arsenal but made the move permanent in August 2020. The playmaker has scored 15 goals in all competitions this season, his highest tally since leaving Borussia Dortmund in 2016.
The one hangover from that 2017 squad whose future at United looks most assured, Marcus Rashford remains a key player in Solskjaer’s squad of the future.
The England forward has made 56 appearances in all competitions for United this season, with only Bruno Fernandes (57) featuring more prominently for the club.
The Europa League holds special significance for Rashford given he made his senior debut against Midtjylland back in February 2016, hoping to celebrate more success in the competition in Gdansk.
READ MORE: Man Utd fans question Jadon Sancho transfer chase after being impressed by two players
READ MORE: Man Utd fans love Bastian Schweinsteiger’s heartfelt message over Europa League final