Manuel Trigueros Muñoz (Talavera de la Reina, 29 years old) graduated in Teaching, perhaps letting himself be carried away by the vocation of service that, deep down, is the guide of every midfielder. He felt the call from the moment he got up, turned on a TV, and saw what a guy was doing that this Saturday will sit on the local Valdebebas bench — who knows if for the last time — to receive Villarreal. “Zidane was my idol as a child,” he says. “And I’ve always looked at Iniesta, Xavi, Modric… those types of players from whom it is very difficult to steal a ball, who come out of complicated situations, who turn around under pressure. They tell me that I am too generous but I like to give passes ”.
Question. Do you like to pass the ball more than to score goals?
Answer. When you leave a striker in an ideal situation to score, it makes me happy. Fortunately at Villarreal we have great forwards who understand us. Because no matter how good passes you give, if there is no one to see them, they are nothing. Villarreal’s strength is that we know each other. When they see that I have the ball they are already looking for space. That is appreciated.
P. How do you explain the success of Villarreal?
R. Here they are looking for players who treat the ball well, who associate well, who always offer themselves, who do not hit pointless balls. Since I arrived at Villarreal B I noticed it in the exercises: all my teammates played football well, we worked the evolutions with the ball, the coaches were aware of the profiles, the controls, how you have to position yourself in each position on the field. Especially if you are a midfielder, they instill in you to handle the profiles, to dominate both legs.
P. What exactly are you referring to when you talk about profiles?
R. Because a Villarreal midfielder has to catch the ball and play forwards. If you are badly outlined you have to play backwards. If you are well profiled you can play first or make a quick wall. Depending on how the opponent is, how they press you, the position of the body when receiving the ball helps you win a few hundredths that in football today are very important.
P. What does it mean to you to play in the Europa League final?
R. When the first team went down to Second in 2012, we at the subsidiary had achieved permanence in Second and we were automatically relegated. It was difficult. But they promoted me to the first squad. Now the barrier of the semifinal was a weight that the club had. I’ve been in the first team for nine years and it’s the first final I’ve played. It’s the game of my life. It won’t happen to us many times. For the club, for the people, it will be very important.
P. When Chelsea eliminated Madrid and Atlético, a recurring clamor arose, indicating that Spanish football lacks speed, rhythm, intensity, physicality, etc. What do you think?
R. That Spanish football is very good technically and tactically. In First you see many teams that it is very difficult to create chances because they are very well worked. Perhaps in England they are looking more for physical strength. I’m not saying speed, because there are fast players everywhere. If the English are beating us it is not because we are not as strong as they are but because we are not well with the ball. If a Spanish team is fine with the ball, I could beat anyone. Physically, Manchester United is stronger than us, but if we are at our level with the ball we can beat them.
P. Manchester’s central midfielders are Fred, MacTominay, Pogba and Matic … Athletes who are nothing like you and Parejo.
R. They are physically very superior. If there is a divided ball they go with everything. But maybe if they have to make a quick wall it will cost them more. And if they have to make continuous efforts, too. That is why profiles are important. Because we are more diesel. We are strong in possessions and positioning. We can give the ball a lot of speed and we have to try to take advantage of it because if we are able to take the initiative they will suffer.
P. How do you manage to be in control of the ball and be aggressive without being vulnerable when facing an opponent who is so powerful on the backlash?
R. Moving the ball super fast and moving at the right time to appear in those spaces that can be created. Partnering. Our associative game is very good, we know each other very well, we know what each one can give and that is a very powerful weapon. If we face up quickly playing with the third man, from there we are fast with the wings and we have many things to gain if we finish the plays. You have to finish the plays without losing the ball because they would come out with great speed.
P. Does this Villarreal play 4-4-2 or 4-3-3?
R. Our system is peculiar. Defending we clearly went to 4-4-2. By attacking, we become 4-3-3 with a band that gets inside and another that is more extreme. It depends on the players, we have it automated. We also use two bands that they get inside, when we play Moi Gómez and I. It is about not occupying the space of the partner to be able to generate pass lines, form stairs to give diagonal passes that are more difficult to cut, and, if the bands we get inside, give space to the sides so that they surprise. We rehearse very well what each one has to do so that everything is a gear.