Manchester United boss Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has spoken out after his side’s penalty shootout defeat to Villarreal in the Europa League final on Wednesday night. The 48-year-old’s side went into the match looking to win their first trophy in four years. But that wait will now go on.
Manchester United fell behind against Villarreal, with Gerard Moreno opening the scoring in the 29th minute of the game.
The hitman capitalised on some poor defending from Victor Lindelof to find the net, beating David De Gea from close range.
United did manage to force extra time through Edinson Cavani, with the Uruguay international scoring his 17th goal of the season in the process.
But it wasn’t to be their night.
After 21 successful penalties split between the two teams, De Gea then fluffed his lines from the penalty spot to hand Unai Emery’s side the famous trophy.
And Solskjaer, speaking after the game, admitted the players within the dressing room were ‘disappointed’.
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“It’s quiet, a disappointed dressing room. That’s football for you,” he said.
“Sometimes it’s decided on one kick – and that’s the difference between winning and losing.
“We have to learn from that one, not savour this feeling but taste this feeling and make sure we don’t get it again.
“We didn’t turn up. We didn’t play as well as we know we can. We started alright and they got the goal, their only shot on target. We were disappointed to concede a goal on a set play.
“We pushed, we pressed, we got a goal. After we scored we didn’t control the game or dominate as we wanted.
“They made it hard for us, they closed spaces. We had the majority of possession. They defended well. We didn’t create enough big chances.
“Now is not the time to point the finger at what I’d have done differently. But when you come out without the trophy you haven’t done everything right.
“We’re getting closer and closer and better. We were one kick away from a trophy and a good night.
“We have to have the desire to come back next year and improve. The only way to get the margins your side is to work harder and better.”
When asked if the season had been a success, Solskjaer said: “No.
“We need to get better, simple as.
“We’ve done really well this season coming through. The start was difficult. We had no pre-season and lost three of the first six.
“We pushed in the league, maybe got closer to the top than we thought and we got to a final. But you need to win the finals to make it a good season.”
United legend Rio Ferdinand, who was performing punditry duties for BT Sport, thinks Solskjaer’s big guns didn’t turn up.
“Manchester United have relied on individuals throughout the season to come up with the trump cards, in critical moments in the games,” he said.
“Bruno has been the man they’ve leaned on, Cavani, Mason sometimes, Marcus, but today they never came up with the goods.
“In the final third, they didn’t take enough chances, they didn’t risk enough, the imagination wasn’t there, the creativity today.
“It’s not been too many occasions where you can say that, that one of them hasn’t stepped up and produced.
“They had a spell after Cavani scored and you thought they had the momentum and were going to go on and take the game by the scruff of the neck, but they didn’t.”
Former Celtic boss Neil Lennon, meanwhile, tore into United and Solskjaer in the aftermath of the result.
“I don’t see the progression that people talk about with Manchester United,” he said on BBC Radio 5 Live.
“Four years ago under Jose Mourinho they finished second in the Premier League and won the Europa League, and four years on they’ve actually regressed.
“The fact they didn’t get out of the Champions League group stage was a warning bell for me.
“They are going to have to invest if they are going to back the manager. This will be a really sore one for Ole Gunnar Solskjaer tonight – he’s been in charge for two and a half years now and he still hasn’t win any silverware. That is what it is about.
“Manchester United are a work in progress, they are a million miles away from being the finished article. I’ve seen that over the course of the season, tonight was glaring.
“Villarreal were quite happy to concede possession but Manchester United weren’t good enough to create any clear-cut opportunities.
“They lacked a lack of quality all over the piece and that’s been apparent for a lot of the season.
“They’ve got good character, but in terms of actual quality, they are a long way behind Manchester City and they are behind Liverpool and Chelsea for me.”