Man Utd, Villarreal in Europa League final

Arsenal's Pablo Mari reacts after a goalless draw with Villarreal saw the English side eliminated.

Arsenal's Pablo Mari reacts after a goalless draw with Villarreal saw the English side eliminated. Photo: PA

Manchester United had little difficulty in completing the job started with their semi-final first leg thrashing of Roma last week with a 3-2 defeat in Italy securing easy progress to the Europa League final on Thursday.

But it will not be Premier League rivals Arsenal they meet in Poland’s Gdansk on May 26, rather Spaniards Villarreal, who are in a first major final after a goalless second leg in London.

The Yellow Submarine, as Villarreal are known, gained revenge for their 2006 Champions League semi-final loss to Arsenal with a 2-1 aggregate triumph while United dominated Roma 8-5.

United’s entry to the final means Manchester could claim both of the major European titles this year as neighbours City face Chelsea in the Champions League final three days later.

Only Milan, when AC won the Champions League in 1994 and Inter the then UEFA Cup, has previously managed that feat.

United survived an early scare when their former player Henrikh Mkhitaryan headed wide but Edinson Cavani, with his third chance of the game, smashed in the 39th minute opener to settle their nerves.

He had previously lobbed onto the bar and had a shot saved by keeper Antonio Mirante.

And it was Cavani’s simple header from Bruno Fernandes’ cross midway through the second half which ultimately put the tie beyond doubt.

“It’s a great achievement,” United captain Harry Maguire told BT Sport. “Obviously we didn’t win the game tonight, which is disappointing, but we did the hard work in the first leg.”

Roma, who will be coached by former United boss Jose Mourinho next season, deservedly levelled when Edin Dzeko headed in from close range and soon after Bryan Cristante fired in on the hour.

United keeper David de Gea, recalled for Europa League fixtures, made some impressive saves from Pedro and Mkhitaryan when a third goal could have sparked a comeback.

Teenager Nicola Zalewski did grab the winner on the night but his deflected debut goal offered only late consolation.

“We had some great European nights this season, with some big wins,” Cristante told “It’s a pity for that second half in Manchester.”

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer had lost his previous four semi-finals as United manager but could finally taste victory.

Villarreal also ended a last-four hoodoo as they had lost all five of their previous semi-finals in various competitions.

Coach Unai Emery, a former Arsenal manager, won three Europa Leagues with Sevilla and is on the brink of glory once more.

They almost repeated their early goal from the first leg but keeper Bernd Leno saved well from Samuel Chukwueze, who was later carried off injured.

Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang hit the post in the first half for Arsenal with a curling shot and headed onto the woodwork with his last involvement before being substituted 10 minutes from time due to the lingering effect of a malaria infection.

But Villarreal held on to claim a historic date with United later this month and Arsenal – a lowly ninth domestically – face a bitterly disappointing conclusion to the campaign.

“We are devastated, really disappointed but we have to congratulate Villarreal on reaching the final,” said Arsenal manager Mikel Arteta.


Topics: football
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