Villarreal defeat Manchester United to win Europa League

Manchester United’s wait for their first trophy under Ole Gunnar Solskjaer continues after David De Gea saw his spot-kick saved at the end of a wild shootout that saw Villarreal crowned Europa League champions.

On this day 22 years ago, the Norwegian wrote himself into club folklore when turning home at the death as Sir Alex Ferguson’s side fought back to win the Champions League and complete the treble.

But May 26, 2021 did not provide another triumphant chapter in United’s success-laden story, with the match ending 1-1 and going to a penalty shootout after Edinson Cavani cancelled out Gerard Moreno’s opener.

All outfield players scored their spot-kicks, as did Villarreal goalkeeper Geronimo Rulli before saving De Gea’s penalty to win the shootout 11-10 and secure the first major trophy in their history.

It was a heartbreaking end to a promising season for United, who finished as Premier League runners-up and showed clear signs of progress.

But defending set-pieces has been a problem throughout and Moreno opened the scoring when all too easily meeting Dani Parejo’s terrific free-kick.

Cavani levelled early in the second half after Marcus Rashford’s volley fell kindly for him from close range and Villarreal clung on for extra-time, which Unai Emery’s men edged before triumphing on penalties.

The Red Devils dominated possession for long spells during normal time but were stunned on 29 minutes when Gerard Moreno met a left-wing free kick to break the deadlock with his 30th goal of the season. 
The opener once again highlighted United’s weakness defending set pieces in the absence of injured skipper, Harry Maguire, who remained an unused substitute throughout the clash in Poland. 
Solskjaer’s men improved greatly following the break and levelled on 55 minutes when Edinson Cavani pounced to lash home a deflected shot from distance. 
United continued to pose the greater threat but Villarreal stood firm to force extra time and then stole the glory after an epic run of penalties. 
The victory means Villarreal, who finished seventh in La Liga, claimed the trophy in their first appearance in a major European final and ensures they will compete in the Champions League group stage next season. 
It also sees Unai Emery become the first manager to win the competition four times. 
United will take solace in finishing second in the Premier League after ending another campaign without silverware.

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