Manchester United’s hopes of Europa League glory were ended in dramatic fashion as Villarreal triumphed 11-10 in a thrilling penalty shootout.
After Gerard Moreno put the La Liga outfit ahead, connecting with a well-taken Dani Parejo free-kick, United struggled to break down their organised and compact opponents.
The Yellow Submarines had been well-drilled by former Arsenal boss Unai Emery, but a deflected shot fell kindly into Edinson Cavani’s path early in the second half for the Uruguay international to slot into an unguarded net.
However, the Red Devils failed to build any momentum on the back of their fortuitous equaliser, and in a game lacking in quality where only three shots on target were recorded, the game meandered through extra time without any incident of note.
After 20 successful penalties from both teams, it was down to the respective goalkeepers to decide the tie, and after Geronimo Rulli cooly tucked his spot-kick into the top corner, the Argentine keeper got down low to keep David de Gea’s tame effort out and a lot of focus post-match has been on De Gea’s performance.
Whilst questions can be asked of De Gea’s shootout showing, it’s hard to pin all the blame for the loss on him. No United player covered themself in glory bar the impressive Scott McTominay, although one man, in particular, let his teammates and Ole Gunnar Solskjaer down with an extremely underwhelming performance.
As per SofaScore, Marcus Rashford won just six of his 19 duels on Wednesday evening, epitomising his desperately poor showing in Gdansk.
The lightweight display meant the Old Trafford outfit struggled to keep hold of the ball in the attacking third of the pitch, with him often losing out to a Villarreal defender before any meaningful progress had been made and allowed the Spanish side to regain possession far too easily.
Rashford has had a fairly impressive season for his boyhood club, scoring 21 goals and providing 15 assists for his teammates in all competitions, yet the £76.5m-rated forward (as per Transfermarkt) was unable to find his best form in the biggest game of the campaign.
The England international is often very effective at dragging his team up the pitch and creating havoc with his direct nature and dazzling dribbling, but even that side of his game let him down in midweek.
Only three of Rashford’s nine attempted dribbles were successful as attack after attack was broken down with the ball at the 23-year-old’s feet.
We’re sure the young winger will come back stronger next season for his shocking experience in this European final, but it was certainly a night to forget for Rashford and on a night where he was needed to stand up and be counted, Rashford was a shadow of himself and he let his manager down with his poor showing.