Gerónimo Rulli saved the 22nd kick of a marathon shoot-out from fellow goalkeeper David de Gea to give Villarreal their first major European trophy.
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Villarreal claimed their first major European title in dramatic circumstances, goalkeeper Gerónimo Rulli saving the 22nd kick of a marathon penalty shoot-out from Manchester United opposite number David de Gea in Gdańsk.
Match in brief
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.
Man of the Match: Étienne Capoue (Villarreal)
Where the final was won and lost
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.
What a night, what a victory – did you really see it coming? 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. First for Villarreal, fourth for Unai Emery – even if it had to be via a nerve-wracking penalty shoot-out, who cares?.
Unai Emery, Villarreal coach: "I am very happy. These players have worked very hard through the season, for the president, the owner, the chairman. We are very proud of Villarreal. I think we deserved to win. It was Manchester United but we played a very competitive match tonight."
Étienne Capoue, Villarreal midfielder: "There is a trophy to win, of course I'm full of energy. It's the mentality of every one of us. I'm just so happy to win today. The secret of Unai? He's a big coach. He has nothing to prove any more. It's a masterclass – he showed it again today."
Ole Gunnar Solskjær, Man. United manager: "We’re getting closer and closer and better and better. We’re one kick away from getting a trophy and having a good night. The only way to have the margins on your side is to improve and get better."
Marcus Rashford, United forward: "Second doesn’t count for nothing. I don’t want to hear, ‘oh they were so close’. It doesn’t mean anything. We have to make sure we don’t lose. To win big trophies you have to show sacrifice. I can show you six, seven players who’ve been carrying injuries since September. We have to go away now and clear our heads."
- Villarreal are the 29th team to win the UEFA Cup/UEFA Europa League, and the fifth Liga side; it is Spain's 13th triumph in the competition
- Unai Emery has won the trophy four times, a new UEFA Cup/UEFA Europa League record; he was in charge of Sevilla's triumphs in 2014, 2015 and 2016
- This was only the second UEFA Europa League final to go to penalties, after Emery's Sevilla beat Benfica in 2014
- Spanish clubs have won ten successive European finals against English teams, since Alavés lost to Liverpool in the 2001 UEFA Cup final
- Cavani has scored in each of United's last four Europa League games, six goals in all, and has ten in his last 11 matches in all competitions
- Moreno's goal was his 82nd for Villarreal, equalling the club record set by former United striker Giuseppe Rossi
- Pino became, aged 18 years and 218 days, the youngest Spanish player to start a major European final, eclipsing the record set by Iker Casillas, who was 19 years and 4 days old in the 2000 UEFA Champions League final.
Villarreal: Rulli; Foyth (Gaspar 88), Albiol, Torres, Pedraza (Moreno 88); Pino (Alcácer 77), Capoue (Raba 120+3), Parejo, Trigueros (Gómez 77): Moreno, Bacca (Coquelin 60)
Manchester United: De Gea; Wan-Bissaka (Mata 120+3), Bailly (Tuanzebe 116), Lindelöf, Shaw; McTominay (Alex Telles 120+4), Pogba (James 116); Rashford, Bruno Fernandes, Greenwood (Fred 100); Cavani
Villarreal will face Manchester City or Chelsea in the UEFA Super Cup in Northern Ireland on 11 August. Victory in Gdańsk means they will also line up in the draw for the 2021/22 UEFA Champions League group stage on 26 August, alongside Manchester United.