Three things we learned as Villarreal beats Manchester United in UEL Final
A match with just one save between the keepers saw a near-perfect sequence of penalty kicks decided when Villarreal goalkeeper Geronimo Rulli saved David De Gea’s penalty after 120 minutes of play ended 1-1 in the 2021 Europa League Final in Gdansk, Poland.
Ten rounds of penalty kicks sent the keepers to the spot, where Rulli beat De Gea and then saved the Manchester United keeper’s penalty.
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Manchester United boss Ole Gunnar Solskjaer again remains trophyless as Red Devils manager, while Unai Emery wins his fourth UEFA Cup and Villarreal collects its biggest trophy yet.
Gerard Moreno scored a 29th-minute goal and Edinson Cavani evened the score after halftime to push the match toward halftime.
United had the better of the ball for 90 minutes and the first period of extra time, but the match tilted toward Villarreal over the final 15 minutes before heading to penalties.
Three things we learned from the Europa League Final
1. Tight title fight: United might’ve had better than 60 percent possession in both halves but the path to goal was often blocked by defenders in both final thirds. Villarreal had four shots blocked by United, who stymied two bids from the Red Devils. Those six blocks over 90 minutes were double the amount of shots on target.
This match felt like it would be kept alive by two industrious midfield and won by a mistake or moment of greatness. United midfielder Scott McTominay was a force for United, even getting credit with an assist, while Dani Parejo struck a more stylish figured in the yellow of Villarreal.
2. Maguire absence looms (sort of): You look at Villarreal’s goal and think, “Would that have happened with Harry Maguire in the back?” That’s a fair one, as Victor Lindelof had a hold of Moreno’s jersey as the Spanish forward pushed him away, but Lindelof was also very steady with the ball in making over 100 passes in the match and center back mate Eric Bailly wasn’t bad, either.
This felt more about the lack of ideas from United, and young Mason Greenwood was poor at right wing while veteran presence Juan Mata and the entire bench waited into extra time without Solksjaer making a sub.
3. Missed chance for Marcus: Rashford was prepared to put the Red Devils in front when Bruno Fernandes swept a cross in from the right but the normally strong finisher totally flubbed a chance and it meandered wide of the far post. The 69th-minute chance was arguably as good a chance as any in the match.
4. Big day for Unai Emery: This was Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s first big final, while Unai Emery had won three of his four Europa League finals and a pair of cup final wins from his time at Paris Saint-Germain as well. Solskjaer didn’t use a sub until extra time while Emery made five changes between the 60th and 88th minutes.
Man of the Match: Geronimo Rulli
Scott McTominay was very good and his assist might’ve been unintentional, but his motor was relentless and he made a big tackle in the 112th minute. That said, Rulli’s two saves were the difference.