Playing their first ever European final, Villarreal emerged winners of this season’s Europa League beating Manchester United in a thrilling penalty shootout in Gdansk (Poland). The match was tightly contested by both sides with Manchester United trailing by a goal at half time. Cavani equalised from Manchester United ten minutes after the break and the match ended in a 1-1 draw at full-time. No goals were scored in extra-time and Villarreal emerged as winners after holding their nerves to win the penalty shootout after each team took an astonishing eleven spot kicks each. Villarreal’s triumph means that they will compete in the UEFA Champions League next season.
A tense opening half-hour saw no chances for either side until Villarreal’s striker Gerard Moreno got on the tail end of a free kick into the penalty area and poked the ball home past David De Gea to give Unai Emery’s side the lead at half-time.
Edinson Cavani equalised ten minutes in the second half to bring United level, pouncing on a loose ball at the top of the six-yard box and firing past Geronimo Rulli to make it 1-1. The Red Devils were the better side throughout the second half, but neither side was able to find a winner in the final 30 minutes and the match went to extra time.
The pace of the game continued into extra time and with no goals scored it had to be a penalty shootout to decide the Europa League winner. The teams went back and forth in the shootout, each scoring their spot kicks until the goalkeepers had to take the 11th penalty. Villarreal keeper Rulli scored his penalty attempt before De Gea missed his after all 10 outfield players from both teams had converted their spot kicks in the 11-10 shootout final.
The result means Man United have not won any silverware in the past four seasons, with the previous cup win being the Europa League victory in the 2016-17 campaign under Jose Mourinho when they beat Ajax in Stockholm.
After the match, a bitter United manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer said: “It’s not a successful season of course,
“Sometimes one kick defines a season as a good one and sometimes a kick defines it’s not. Nobody expected us to finish second in the league but the boys came up just short tonight unfortunately.
“Trophies matter and that’s what matters at this club so no it’s not a successful season. It’s the short answer.”
On the other hand, Villarreal coach Unai Emery secured a record fourth title in the competition after winning three Europa League throphies with Sevilla.
The Spanish tactician said: “In the Europa League we have been absolutely impeccable. Since the very first moment. Some days we were coming at 6am to the stadium to prepare a game for the Sunday. All of this makes the journey [worthwhile],” .
“We were talking about enjoying these moments. In the end you are proud to reach the title [decider] but if you don’t win, you are sad. Winning is another step, an important step ahead. We do this profession for these moments. We have been able to give joy to many people.”
Emery joined Villarreal in July 2020, only nine months after he getting sacked by English side Arsenal following a poor run of results.