Europa League final: Talking points
Manchester United suffered a heart-breaking end to the 2020/21 season after losing the Europa League final to Villarreal, 11-10 on penalties.
The game in Gdansk finished 1-1 after extra-time, following a close-range finish by Gerard Moreno in the first half and an Edinson Cavani leveller in the second period, when Marcus Rashford's strike was deflected into the Uruguayan's path.
With the match going to spot-kicks, every outfield player found the net successfully, leaving the keepers to step up and there was agony for the Reds as Villarreal's Geronimo Rulli scored and then saved the 22nd shot from his counterpart David De Gea.
Here are the key discussion points from our difficult night in Poland…
Heartbreak in GdanskGallery
After a lengthy penalty shootout, the Europa League final ends in defeat for United.
NOT TO BE
United were hoping to add a seventh European trophy to our collection, four years on from our last, but having got so close it wasn’t to be. Marcus Rashford and Paul Pogba were the only players to line up in both Europa League finals, against Ajax in 2017 and now Villarreal in 2021.
With the tension building, both teams scored their first five spot-kicks. The shoot-out then moved into sudden death and the next five penalties were perfect again, leaving the score standing at an incredible 10-10. Both keepers got a hand to some efforts along the way, but neither could do enough to stop them going in. When it was their turn to step up and take kicks themselves, Geronimo Rulli went first and found the top corner. David De Gea, however, saw Rulli turn his effort away in what was such a cruel way to lose a final. At 22 penalties in total, it was the longest shoot-out in the history of UEFA finals.
At 34 years and 101 days, Edinson Cavani became the oldest player to score for the Reds in a European final, breaking the record set by Teddy Sheringham (33 years and 54 days) in 1999. The only two players older than Edi to net in a major final are Gary McAllister (36) for Liverpool in the 2001 UEFA Cup final and Didier Drogba (34) for Chelsea in the 2012 UEFA Champions League final.
NO REPEAT OF '99
Despite this defeat, 26 May will remain a special point on the calendar for everyone connected with the club, being the birthday of Sir Matt Busby, born in 1909, and also the date on which we completed the Treble in 1999 with that iconic comeback against Bayern Munich. Sadly on this occasion we couldn’t add another success to the folklore of this date.
THAT’S A WRAP
After a gruelling 61 games crammed into just eight months, our 2020/21 campaign has come to an end. While the summer will be mainly a time for rest, a number of our squad will be involved in the European Championship before returning to Manchester and going in search of glory again next season.