Spotkick heartbreak as Reds come up short in Gdansk
*So close – but longest-ever penalty shootout goes to Spanish
*Questions raised about Ole's match management as trophy wait goes on
*Unai Emery a master of tactics
Underdogs Villarreal beat Manchester United 11-10 in a dramatic and very long penalty shootout in Gdansk after the Europa League final ended 1-1 after extra time.
The Reds’ failure to despatch Unai Emery’s Spanish side prolongs Manchester United’s wait for a trophy under their once-extra time hero Ole Gunnar Solskjaer.
They were not without their chances though. The first chance of the game fell to Manchester United in the opening ten minutes. Edinson Cavani won the ball back on the left side as Marcus Rashford laid the ball to Scott McTominay on the edge of the area, but his shot was dragged wide as United were looking to press the Villarreal back line early.
United continued to press within the first twenty minutes as they looked to gain an advantage in the tie. Luke Shaw was enjoying the left flank, as the ball fell to him on the corner of the box and the fullback fired in a cross which just needed a touch from a red shirt to put themselves a goal up in Gdańsk.
In a cautious first half, it was Villarreal who took the lead through Gerard Moreno. Set pieces were again the downfall of United as Dani Parejo floated a ball in towards Moreno who got ahead of Victor Lindelof to slide the ball past David De Gea.
Villarreal were very compact during the opening half of football. The pragmatism of Unai Emery was clearly on display as United found it very difficult to exploit any space at all and thus the build-up was slow and lethargic from Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s side.
At half time, Solskjaer would have no doubt torn into his players. The key thing to note was the constant prolonging of play which wasn’t shown since the opening ten minutes. The approach play from United allowed Villarreal to easily adapt back into their defensive shape which played into Villarreal’s hands.
Manchester United delivered a perfect response in the 55th minute. A corner from Luke Shaw found its way to Marcus Rashford on the edge of the box, who fires it into a crowd of players in which the ricochet falls to Edinson Cavani who dispatched the ball into the net from six yards out to get his 17th of the season.
United were certainly the better team in the second half as Cavani almost grabbed a second in the 72nd minute. Luke Shaw and Marcus Rashford combined down the left flank as Shaw cut back inside on his right foot and although the shot was going miles wide, Cavani almost turned it past Rulli in the Villarreal goal.
Juan Foyth was rather fortunate to stay on the pitch late on for a very rash challenge on Luke Shaw and on second viewing the foot from the on-loan Tottenham Hotspur defender was high.
The entire period of extra time was a very torrid affair between the two sides which suited the Spanish side as they looked to frustrate United through the entire game. Solskjaer seemed as though he was settling for penalties and that is what he got as neither side could break the deadlock in the Europa League final.
In what was a flawless penalty shootout, it was David De Gea who missed the all-important spot kick as Villarreal won the Europa League for the first time.
The players will ask themselves if they could have done more but it’s Solskjaer who must assume the responsibility. He was Manchester United’s hero in Barcelona 22 years ago to the day, but this defeat extends the wait for his first trophy as their manager. An achievement which felt close now feels as far away as ever.