Fortunately, there was the penalty series at the very end, because it has not been a final for history. Such a penalty series makes up for a lot. And I’ve seen and commented on a lot of penalty shootouts, but this has to be the best I’ve ever seen.
Not only did all penalties – 21 shots – fly in, but they were actually all perfectly given. The goalkeepers were there every now and then, but because the penalties were well in the corner or kicked hard enough, there was no stopping it. It was a masterclass: with both left and right, in the short corner and the far corner. It was material for a video that can be shown when penalties have to be taught.
De Gea has now not been able to stop 36 penalties in a row.
At the same time, it is of course also a great drama for De Gea. I heard that he had to take 25 penalties in a row, then that starts to play a bit, I think, at the start of such a penalty series. He has now added 11 more: that makes 36 penalties in a row, none of which he was able to stop.
And if at the very end, just after your colleague had kicked one perfectly, you kick a really lame one … He’s the only one who kicked badly. Then that is a drama. That is on top of his difficult second half of the season. He’s been through a few rough years.
At one point De Gea was among the best in the world. That was a bit less in recent years. After going back to attend his girlfriend’s delivery, he lost his place anyway. Henderson is pushing. He seemed to have won the battle and was a bit better at the end of the season. But this is again something that he will carry.
He has not made any mistakes now – that is not missing a penalty kick – but this will of course be added again. You can imagine that he will now get the full brunt. In addition to all those very happy Spaniards, there is one very unhappy, I think.
Gerard Moreno opens the score for Villarreal.
Villarreal didn’t really want to play football, United was unable to dislocate block
There were two reasons why it wasn’t a thrilling finale. I have seen before that Villarreal can play great football, with neat Spanish combination football. They had chosen now, and they did at Arsenal, to put a low block, close together, very stiff to defend. Because they knew they were facing an opponent with many more qualities.
United is a richer, bigger team, with more fame and better players. We actually saw that in the 90 minutes, in which United was the better team and was constantly on the attack. But certainly in the first half, United actually failed to create a real chance.
The most dangerous of all was Albiol’s almost own goal. What Villarreal has been able to do too little in those 90 minutes is play football. And then you get those kinds of matches. Villarreal didn’t really want to and United was unable – especially in the first half – to disrupt that block. There were a few chances in the second half. But United was not good enough and did not have enough pace in their game.
What struck me: Villarreal was simply the better team in the overtime. Suddenly they started playing better football, although there were no real opportunities. All in all, it was what you often have with extensions: that little happens.
This final will be remembered mainly because of the name of the winner, the sympathetic underdog, a team with a very good image: good youth work, healthy management, often good transfers, good sports policy … It is a small town with 50,000 inhabitants. So that is actually a fairytale for the “Yellow Submarine”.
In one go, I also think that Gdansk has been a kind of purification and liberation for that missed penalty by Riquelme in 2006, which left Villarreal next to the Champions League final. Villarreal can now also go to the Champions League.
This final will be remembered mainly because of the name of the winner, the sympathetic underdog.
United no longer has a trophy since 2017
This is a colossal disappointment for United. There was a period under Sir Alex Ferguson when United sold trophies. A lost final may have been just a footnote then, except when it was the Champions League.
But if you didn’t win a prize in 2017, it was very welcome for United and for Solskjaer. He could have won his first trophy as a United coach. Although the house will not shake with the loss of the Europa League, for an English team, the Premier League and the Champions League are especially important.
And this will be a little extra sour, if city rivals City wins the Champions League on Saturday.
“Villarreal has broken through 2 glass ceilings”
And don’t forget: this is of course also the final of Unai Emery. I have called him the King Midas of the Europa League a few times already. That has been proven once more.
It is unbelievable how he manages to win the Europa League time and time again. Three times in a row with Sevilla, where many players have since been sold. That is the best.
Two years ago he lost the final with Arsenal, but now it’s hit again. And if you take a look at the entire Villarreal track, it’s just a deserved win. They didn’t lose, winning 12 of their 15 matches and eliminating some tough opponents.
This is historic for Villarreal. Only over 20 years ago they entered the Primera Division. They are doing great in their own way. They always bumped into a kind of glass ceiling: they had entered the European semi-finals 4 times and sometimes in the Coppa. Now they have suddenly broken 2 glass ceilings.