Friday, May 28, 2021

Europa League Final: Yellow Submarine Sinks Manchester United

Villareal, dubbed the “Yellow Submarine,” defeated Manchester United in dramatic fashion to deliver manager Unai Emery’s fourth Europa League title and the first European Championship for Villareal. Emery’s fourth title provides some redemption for the Spanish manager who defeated former club Arsenal in the semi-final before dispensing of a former Premier League opponent in the final. The match was not decided until Manchester United goalkeeper David De Gea, unable to make a save on any of 11 penalty kicks he faced, missed his own penalty kick. De Gea’s miss was the 22nd penalty try taken by the clubs following a scoreless 30-minute period of extra time. Villareal goalkeeper Geronimo Rulli made the climactic save on De Gea moments after converting his own attempt for the winning goal.  

The clubs were deadlocked after regular time on goals by Villareal’s Gerard Moreno and United’s Edinson Cavani. Moreno’s goal was his 30th of the season, making him the first Villareal player to reach that goal mark in a decade. Cavani’s goal was his 17th of the season and was a solitary bright spot in a game marked by poor performances from Manchester United stars such as Bruno Fernandes, Marcus Rashford and Paul Pogba. Ole Gunnar Solskjaer was denied his first trophy as Manchester United manager by a disciplined Villareal club which United was unable to break down but for an opportunistic goal by the crafty Cavani. United had but two shots on goal for the match while Villareal converted on its only attempt on target. A lack of depth was apparent for United which had no game changing options to draw from its bench. Solskjaer, in fact, made no substitutions during regular time. Questions were also being asked after the match as to why De Gea was left between the posts for the deciding penalty kicks. The United goalkeeper had failed to save any of 25 penalties he had faced for the Red Devils in the last five years before failing again on the 11 converted tries by Villareal on Wednesday. The disappointing end to Manchester United’s season marked a fourth season without a trophy since the club won the Europa League under former manager Jose Mourinho. The loss tends to mask progress made by the club in Solskjaer’s second full season as manager as the Red Devils improved on points and position in the Premier League table and advanced to the Europa League final after falling in the semi-final round the previous season.

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