Manchester United’s Europa League odyssey ended in the cruellest of manners with a gut wrenching penalty shootout defeat to the Yellow Submarines of Villarreal.
Edinson Cavani cancelled out Gerard Moreno’s 30th goal of the season but the Reds were unable to find a way through as Europa League specialist Unai Emery pulled off his fourth success in the competition.
This result has left me gutted and will haunt my dreams for years. You have to credit Villarreal for an unspectacular but ultimately successful tactical performance. For United and their manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, the spectre of silverware remains agonisingly out of reach. Sometimes I really do hate football.
Here is how we rated each Red in Gdansk.
David de Gea – 4
This might be harsh but you have to feel he should have done better for Moreno’s opener and he failed to get near any of the Villarreal spot-kicks. To add insult to injury, he missed the decisive penalty. It’s harsh to blame him per se as penalties are a lottery and someone has to miss, but you feel Dean Henderson would have done better. De Gea has been beaten from his last 36 penalties and out of 40 faced, he has saved five. FIVE. If this is his last game for Manchester United, then it’s a horrible way to go out. Didn’t have much to do but should have done better when moments came his way.
Aaron Wan-Bissaka – 6
Did little wrong defensively but should have offered more in attack, particularly seeing as United had a lot of the ball and pushed forward frequently in the second half. Didn’t have Chukwueze to deal with, kept things tight down his side and one of United’s better performers
Victor Lindelof – 6
Should have probably done better for the goal but it was a difficult set piece to defend with the pace and flight of the ball. Dropped perfectly in between the centre halves, you could question his positioning but – that aberration aside – was generally solid and improved as the tie went on. Blasted his penalty in well.
Eric Bailly – 6
Selected ahead of Axel Tuanzebe in Harry Maguire’s absence and, like his partner at the back, did little wrong, Nothing he could do for the goal and made some strong clearances in the second half. Gave way in extra time.
Luke Shaw – 5
Marked down as this wasn’t necessarily a poor game from Shaw, but by his own standards this season he was underwhelming. Caught napping by Moreno and could be seen getting admonished by Solskjaer for not staying high up the pitch. Perhaps jaded after an excellent season, United’s Player’s Player of the Season failed to find one last big performance. Saw his penalty squirm in.
Scott McTominay – 8
My man of the match with a totemic performance in midfield. Drove United forward, made tackles, his passing was strong and came close to scoring. Seemed to get better as the game wore on. Covered every blade of grass and can take pride in his performance. Unlucky to be taken off, he was at the heart of everything United did and claimed an assist for Cavani’s leveller. Excellent performance from the Scot
Paul Pogba – 5
Caused some problems in the first half with his passing range as United struggled to unlock Villarreal. Faded to the fringes in the second half and taken off before penalties – perhaps surprising given his big game bottle. Would have been better with him further forward and didn’t influence the game as much as he should.
Mason Greenwood – 7
One of the best players on the pitch and didn’t deserve to be on the losing side. Quick and direct in the first half, he was energetic, never stopped running, put crosses in and unlucky not to score twice. Should have had a penalty when he was hacked down after the interval. Surprisingly taken off first – for the more defensive minded Fred no less – despite Villarreal clearly wary of his pace and penetration. A decent season for the 19-year-old
Bruno Fernandes – 4
Never got in the game as he was stifled and suffocated by Emery’s gameplan every time he got the ball. Seemed to have five players around him at every turn and the sight of him clutching the ball in vain hope for a spot-kick summed up his night. Easily United’s best player up until Christmas but his halo has slipped since the turn of the year. Even his spot-kick in the shootout only just about hit the target.
Marcus Rashford – 3
Bounced off defenders and ran down blind alleys, lost the ball and played like a newborn calf. Had a part in the goal when his shot ricocheted into Cavani’s path but an otherwise forgettable night for a player who has looked exhausted. Will go to the Euros with England but could do with the summer off. Somehow played the entire game and stayed on to convert his penalty. His missed second half sitter will haunt my dreams for years.
Edinson Cavani – 7
Had two good openings at 0-0 but popped up in typically predatory fashion to turn in the leveller just when we needed it. You’d have put money on United going on to win at 1-1 but it never quite happened. Put his penalty away after a creditable 17-goal season and we’ll get to enjoy him again for another season. His work rate and link play was superb all night and he didn’t deserve to be on the losing side.
Fred – for Greenwood (100) – 6
Surprisingly left out of the team but came on to tighten the midfield and to give United fresh legs at a time when the game was drifting. Didn’t do anything wrong and didn’t expect his spot kick ability to be so good.
Dan James – for Pogba (115) – 6
Didn’t do much but converted in the shootout
Axel Tuanzebe – for Bailly (115) – N/A
Thumped home his pen
Alex Telles & Juan Mata (for McTominay & Wan-Bissaka 120+3) – N/A
Both came on to take penalties and did so
Referee – -1,000
Awful. Abysmal. Terrible. Gave Villarreal everything and was their twelfth man.
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer – 5
United were beaten on the lottery of penalties and no one can be blamed for that. It was a surprise not to see a substitution in the 90 minutes but you could argue United didn’t need one as we were good in the second half. Should have taken Rashford off though and Greenwood getting hooked was surprising. A disappointing night but one Solskjaer will learn a lot from.
Read more: Bruno Fernandes in tears after full-time whistle in Gdansk