BusinessDay

Villarreal are Europa League Champions

… beat Manchester United to win first major European trophy

Villarreal beat Manchester United in an epic penalty shootout in the Europa League final on Wednesday night after the match ended 1-1 in regular and extra time.

Gerard Moreno gave Villarreal the lead 29 minutes into the Spanish club’s first European final, but Edinson Cavani equalised early in the second half before Unai Emery’s team prevailed on spot-kicks, extending United’s four-year trophy drought.

Villarreal were playing their first-ever major final and coach Emery recognised United were favourites due to their more storied history, but urged his side to “keep breaking down barriers” after four semi-final exits.

After the match, United manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer said: “It’s not a successful season of course.

“Sometimes one kick defines a season as a good one and sometimes a kick defines it’s not. Nobody expected us to finish second in the league but the boys came up just short tonight unfortunately.

“Trophies matter and that’s what matters at this club so no it’s not a successful season. It’s the short answer.”

United were the better side throughout the second half, but neither side was able to find a winner in regulation and the match went to extra time.

The pace of the game continued into extra time and with no goals scored it was on to a penalty shootout to decide the Europa League winner.

The teams went back and forth in the shootout, with Villarreal keeper Rulli scoring his penalty attempt before De Gea missed his penalty after all 10 outfield players from both teams had converted their spot kicks in the 11-10 shootout final.

The result means Man United have not won a title of any kind in four seasons, since lifting the Europa League trophy in the 2016-17 campaign under Jose Mourinho.

Villarreal coach Emery secured a record fourth title in the competition after winning three Europa League wins with Sevilla.

“In the Europa League we have been absolutely impeccable. Since the very first moment, some days we were coming at 6am to the stadium to prepare a game for Sunday. All of this makes the journey worthwhile,” Emery said.

“We were talking about enjoying these moments. In the end you are proud to reach the title, but if you don’t win, you are sad. Winning is another step, an important step ahead. We do this profession for these moments. We have been able to give joy to many people.”

Emery joined Villarreal in July 2020, 9 months after he was sacked by Arsenal.

Emery knocked his former club Arsenal out of this season’s Europa League at the semi-final stage before taking down another Premier League giant in Man United, but insisted he did not see the achievement as a personal triumph.

“I insist it is not a sports revenge at all. I try to enjoy every moment, winning and losing. I try to create new circumstances, so everywhere I have been, even in England at Arsenal, I have learned a lot, met many people, other cultures and football,” he said.

“At the end of that story was professional frustration, but some other doors opened then. Winning today is a satisfaction, but for my club today, as it was when I was at Sevilla.

“When I was at Arsenal we played in the Europa League final and could not win but it is a process, from that game I learned a lot to win this one maybe.”

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