Gerónimo Rulli was the hero for Villarreal in the UEFA Europa League final, saving the decisive spot kick from opposite number David De Gea,
Manchester United boss Ole Gunnar Solskjaer insisted that their season cannot be classed as a success after they lost in the Europa League final.
Man United started the game well but it was Villarreal who took the lead just before the half-hour mark. Dani Parejo’s free-kick was converted by Gerard Moreno with the help of some shoddy defending from Victor Lindelof.
Solskjaer‘s side got an all-important equaliser shortly after half time. United were piling on the pressure as Villarreal could only clear it to Marcus Rashford on the edge of the area.
The forward struck the ball back towards the goal. It eventually found its way to Edinson Cavani, who tapped it home from close range.
Man United finished the half strongly but Unai Emery’s side held firm to keep it 1-1 at the final whistle. The finalists navigated their way through extra time to set themselves up for a tense penalty shootout.
It proved to be a high-quality shootout as the first 21 spot-kicks were all converted. The decisive moment came as De Gea stepped up to take the 22nd penalty.
His effort was saved by Geronimo Rulli, which handed Emery his fourth Europa League trophy as a manager. With this defeat, United’s wait for silverware under Solskjaer goes on.
As cited by BBC Sport, Solskjaer told BT Sport post-match that it is vital that learn from this cup final defeat:
“It’s quiet, a disappointed dressing room. That’s football for you. Sometimes it’s decided on one kick – and that’s the difference between winning and losing.
This was Villarreal’s first major title — and third overall after winning the now-extinct UEFA Intertoto Cup in 2003 and 2004.
This is the Unai Emery league! Emery has become the first manager to win the UEFA Cup/Europa League four times (thrice with Sevilla — 2013-14, 2014-15, 2015-16 & now with Villarreal 2020-21), surpassing Giovanni Trapattoni.
This was the longest penalty shootout in the history of a final of a major European competition (22 taken, 21 scored). The previous record was 14 (2008 UCL, Manchester United 6 – 5 Chelsea and 2001 UCL Bayern Munich 5 – 4 Valencia). In fact, in major European competition history, there have been only 5 shootouts to go past 10 kicks.