Ole Gunnar Solskjaer faces questions after failing to get Manchester United over the line as ‘masterful’ Villarreal boss Unai Emery nullifies Red Devils in Europa League final
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer will face questions over his inability to ‘get Manchester United over the line’ after a penalty shootout defeat to Villarreal in the Europa League final on Wednesday night.
United’s wait for their first trophy under Solskjaer continues after David de Gea’s spot-kick was 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. Yet Dean Ashton believes ‘master’ Unai Emery completely got the better of his more inexperienced counterpart in Gdansk.
Ashton said after the game: “It leaves Solskjaer with questions being asked whether he is the man to get him them over the line.
“He will have his critics, there will be people who will say, ‘I told you so’.
“Did he get it right tactically? Did he make the changes when they needed to be made? No.
“He’s got to answer to that. But right now, they’ll be devastated.”
For former Arsenal boss Emery, it was a remarkable fourth triumph in the Europa League and one which sealed Champions League qualification for Villarreal.
Ashton continued: “Solskjaer will be so disappointed with that performance.
“He’ll look back on opportunities to change that game, tactically and with substitutions.
“It went the way we thought it might go, with Villarreal at their absolutely best, with Unai Emery’s tactics nullifying United.
“United had one of those evenings where they never really got going. Emery is the master of this competition. You could just tell it meant more to them.”