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SPORTS MAX) Ole Gunnar Solskjaer admitted Manchester United “didn’t turn up” and their season cannot be deemed a success after they were beaten by Villarreal in the Europa League final.
David de Gea missed the only penalty of a marathon shoot-out at Gdansk Stadium, where Villarreal won their first major European trophy on Wednesday.
United goalkeeper De Gea’s tame effort gave Villarreal an 11-10 victory on spot-kicks after the two sides were locked at 1-1 at the end of extra time in Poland midweek.
Gerard Moreno put the LaLiga side in front in the first half with his 30th goal of the season and his 82nd for the club, matching a record tally of 82nd that was also achieved by Giuseppe Rossi.
Edinson Cavani equalised 10 minutes into the second half, but United were unable to claim their first trophy under Solskjaer.
Unai Emery, on the other hand, became the first manager to win either the UEFA Cup or UEFA Europa League four times, surpassing Giovanni Trapattoni’s haul, having won this competition three times with Sevilla.
Solskjaer knows the Red Devils were not good enough and must raise the bar next season after falling short yet again.
The United boss told BT Sport: “It’s a quiet, disappointed dressing room. That’s football for you. 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.”
Solskjaer, who named Harry Maguire and Fred among the substitutes with neither player fully fit, did not make changes until extra time.
Yet the former Norway striker, who guided United to a second-placed Premier League finish this season, said: “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.”
Asked if this season has been a success, Solskjaer frankly replied: “No.”
He added: “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.”