Villarreal 1 – 1 Manchester United. (Villareal win 11-10 on penalties).
Manchester United lost to Villarreal in the Europa League final on Wednesday night. Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s side were the better team for the majority of normal time in Gdansk, Poland, but faded badly in extra time. The Red Devils lost a marathon penalty shootout 11-10, with David de Gea missing the decisive kick.
Villarreal, who were limited but well-organised and gritty, took the lead through Gerard Moreno after 30 minutes. Edinson Cavani equalised in the second half but neither team could find the winner in normal time or extra time.
The Spanish side went on to win their first major trophy after a flawless series of penalty kicks in the shootout.
Villarreal v Man United: First half.
Solskjaer, 22 years to the day after he scored the winning goal in the final seconds of the Champions League final against Bayern Munich, was aiming to win his first trophy as Man United manager, and he named a positive, attacking team for the final.
Fred and Dean Henderson, two players who have struggled for form in recent weeks, were both dropped, albeit Fred’s omission was due to an injury.
Paul Pogba moved into central midfield and Mason Greenwood started on the right, with Edinson Cavani playing as the centre-forward. Bruno Fernandes captained the team in the absence of Harry Maguire, who was only fit enough to make the bench.
Man United started brightly and kept Villarreal camped in their own half, with both Cavani and Scott McTominay having efforts on goal in the opening minutes. The match in Gdansk, however, was low on quality in the first half. Both sides only registered some half-chances as the game failed to catch fire and stuttered along in a stop-start manner.
Villarreal, managed by former Arsenal coach Unai Emery, were content to allow Man United to have the ball. They sat off their opponents and tried to hit the Red Devils on the break or from a set piece. Their plan yielded results after 30 minutes, thanks in part to some sloppy defending from Solskjaer’s side.
Cavani conceded a free-kick in Man United’s half after a late challenge on Dani Parejo. From the resulting free-kick, which was defended poorly by the English side, Gerard Moreno scored at the back post, his 30th goal of the season.
Man United pressed high and started the first half well, but, as has often been the case, Solskjaer’s side looked muddled and stiff in possession during the opening half, particularly as Bruno Fernandes struggled to get space and time on the ball.
Villarreal appeared to quickly realise that they just needed to get players close to Fernandes and they would negate their opponent’s best chance of creating a goalscoring chance.
The tactic worked well in the first half, as of United’s outfield players, only Greenwood and Cavani had fewer touches of the ball than the team’s captain.
Villarreal v Man United: Second half.
Yet, after the break, Man United increased their intensity as Villarreal attempted to slow play down and waste time. And Solskjaer’s side got a slice of good fortune 10 minutes into the second half when Fernandes’ volley was blocked and deflected in the penalty area.
The ball fell to Cavani, who shot into an empty net after the Villarreal goalkeeper had already dived to save the initial shot. The Uruguayan scored his 16th goal of the season to draw Man United level.
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Emery’s team were now second best to their opponents in most aspects of the match, as Man United took control and continued to push for a second goal.
Rashford, however, somehow managed to miss a chance from around eight yards when clear through on goal. The England forward appeared to be offside, and it may not have counted if he scored, but it was a dreadful miss and awful attempt on goal. Rashford, who played poorly on the night, scuffed the effort wide.
Solskjaer’s side, however, pinned their opponents back and took the game to the La Liga side. Villarreal began to fade and it appeared they were prepared to take their chances in extra time or even penalties.
The game became scrappy in extra time, with little or no quality on display from either team. Villarreal were refreshed after Emery used four of his substitutions at once. Solskjaer, who was a ‘super-sub’ in his playing days, seemed averse to making changes, however.
By half time in extra time, the only substitution the Man United made was to bring Fred on for Greenwood. Rashford, who repeatedly lost the ball and was arguably the worst player on the pitch on the night, remained on the pitch as creative players such as Amad Diallo, Donny van de Beek and Juan Mata sat on the bench.
Solskjaer’s game management, not for the first time, was questionable.
Villarreal were the better team in extra time and the game went to a penalty shootout, where the Spanish side shot first and scored all 11 of their kicks.
Man United scored 10 of their penalties, but De Gea missed his kick. Villarreal won their first major trophy, while Solskjaer missed out on the chance to win his first trophy as Man United coach.
Man United player ratings.
David de Gea – 5
Aaron Wan-Bissaka – 5
Eric Bailly – 5
Victor Lindelof – 5
Luke Shaw – 6
Scott McTominay – 7
Paul Pogba – 5
Bruno Fernandes – 5
Mason Greenwood – 6
Marcus Rashford – 4
Edinson Cavani – 7
Fred – 5
Axel Tuanzebe – N/A
Dan James – N/A