Gdansk: The penalty shootout was going badly for Manchester United goalkeeper David de Gea in the Europa League final, beaten by every Villarreal player who stepped up to the spot, at the Gdansk stadium here on Thursday. And the final verdict 11-10 said it all.
The shootout, after a 1-1 draw following extra time, went on so long that all of the outfield players took penalties, meaning De Gea and Villarreal goalkeeper Gerónimo Rulli were the 11th men up.
Villarreal, in their first major European final, were pushed back in the opening stages, although they defended in numbers and Yeremi Pino twice had glimpses of the United goal. The English team failed to heed the threat, and were caught out in the 29th minute as Dani Parejo floated a free-kick into the penalty area and Gerard Moreno lost his markers to flick beyond De Gea.
United hit back ten minutes into the second period, Villarreal clearing Luke Shaw's corner only as far as Marcus Rashford, whose deflected effort fell for Edinson Cavani to prod in. United look the likelier to find a winner but again struggled to create clear chances in normal time and, though Villarreal pressed in the extra 30 minutes, neither side did enough to win it before the shoot-out. There the first 20 kicks were converted before Rulli stepped up to drill beyond De Gea and then saved from his United counterpart to take the trophy to Spain.
Twenty-one penalties could ultimately not mask one essential truth: that Manchester United are a club bereft of identity, enslaved by their own mythology.
United lacked fluency for large parts and created little over the 120 minutes, despite pinning Villarreal back inside their own half for the majority of the regular 90. Ole Gunnar Solskjær had urged his players to enjoy the occasion in Gdańsk but there was little evidence of that against a well-drilled, superbly organised Yellow Submarine side, who deserved their slice of good fortune in the shoot-out. A desperate evening for Solskjær, whose wait for a first trophy goes on.
The early goal settled nerves and even though the second half was marked by a sustained period of Villarreal looking groggy, of them gasping for air as they lost 50-50 challenges and felt as if they were outnumbered in their own half, the technical skill, bravery and know-how of their record-breaking coach somehow got them through the test of fire. Coach Unai Emery of Villarreal said, "I am very happy. I think we deserved to win”.
29: Gerard Moreno (Villarreal)
55: Cavani (Man United)
• Longest in UEFA competition: The 2007 UEFA European Under-21 Championship semi-final between the Netherlands and England had 32 attempts before the Dutch hosts prevailed 13-12 in the longest shoot-out in any UEFA competition.
• Most spot kicks scored in a UEFA club competition shoot-out: Villarreal's 11-10 triumph over Manchester United in the 2021 UEFA Europa League final matched the score when Latvia's Skonto overcame Olimpija Ljubljana of Slovenia 11-10 in the 1993/94 UEFA Champions League preliminary round.
UEFA Cup/Europa League final shoot-outs
1984: Tottenham 4-3 Anderlecht
1988: Leverkusen 3-2 Espanyol
1997: Schalke 4-1 Inter Milan
2000: Galatasaray 4-1 Arsenal
2007: Sevilla 3-1 Espanyol
2014: Sevilla 4-2 Benfica
2021: Villarreal 11-10 Manchester United