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Europa League final 2021 as it happened: Villarreal triumph in penalty thriller

Unai Emery's Villarreal are Europa League champions after David De Gea's missed spot kick

Europa League
(Image: © Future)

FULL TIME: VILLARREAL (p) 1-1 Manchester United

Unai Emery has claimed the fourth Europa League winners medal of his managerial career, and a first with Villarreal, after Manchester United were defeated on penalties in Gdansk. 

The game has ended 1-1 after 90 minuets, with Edinson Cavani's second half strike canceling out Gerard Moreno's opener. A tense game ended in high drama, as the subsequent penalty shootout saw 21 straight successful kicks. David De Gea eventuality missed.

You can relive the action with our live blog, below...


How to watch

We’ll be covering everything, from the build-up to the final whistle, right here. If you’re looking for a stream for the game though, fear not - we’ve got you covered here

Kick-off is just under two hours away. 

Manchester United: team news

The big team news for Manchester United continues to be dominated by captain, Harry Maguire, who’s unlikely to make the game tonight - unless Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has been playing some elite mind games. The man affectionately known as Slabhead has been recovering from ankle ligament damage, as Gareth Southgate sweats on his fitness, too. That leaves Eric Bailly to partner Victor Lindelof at the heart of the Red Devils’ backline.

They’ll most likely sit in front of David De Gea - left on the bench in 2017’s Europa League final - as he’s now the cup keeper behind Dean Henderson. Fred and Scott McTominay are two other doubts for the midfield but should be fit.

Marcus Rashford - shockingly - might only make the bench tonight. Bruno Fernandes is a shoe-in to start and Mason Greenwood is in phenomenal form. Edinson Cavani has been reliable of late too, leaving that left-wing spot between Paul Pogba and Rashford. 

Anthony Martial is also out injured. Amad Diallo is likely to step up in his place on the bench.

Villarreal: team news

33-year-old former Leicester City stalwart Vincent Iborra is the big casualty for Villarreal’s side tonight and won’t make the game. 

Samuel Chukwueze, who went off injured at the Emirates Stadium in the Europa League semi-final, could feature. Juan Foyth, on loan from Tottenham, was suspended for that game but has since picked up a hamstring injury. Unai Emery may risk both of them but is more likely to name captain Mario Gaspar and teen sensation Yeremy Pino in the pair’s absence. 

Like United, Villarreal have a cup keeper. Geronimo Rulli used to play for the blue half of Manchester and is likely to get the nod ahead of first-choice Sergio Asenjo.

When Unai Emery last favoured his second-choice glovesman in a Europa League final, some say it came back to bite him: Petr Cech let in four goals against Chelsea before joining them as a technical director after the game… 

Ole's not feeling the nerves

“I feel good, no nerves,” Ole Gunnar Solskjaer told the Manchester United website ahead of this one. “Of course, you’re excited and looking forward to it. It’s a fantastic stadium with nice surroundings and an environment for a good game.”

The view from Gdansk

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9,500 fans will be present at the Europa League final in Gdansk tonight, as we shape up for the first of two European finals with small crowds permitted. 

Poland has recorded fewer COVID cases in the past 14 days than the UK and strict measures are in place tonight to minimise the spread of coronavirus. UEFA will, of course, be measuring how tonight and Saturday’s Champions League showdown goes down ahead of this summer’s festival of football, Euro 2020. 

Spare a thought for Bruno Soriano, tonight. The defensive midfielder made his debut the season after Villarreal’s mad dash to the Champions League semi-final, where Juan Roman Riquelme inspired the Yellow Submarine to the final four. 

Soriano retired from football last summer - and in his absence, Villarreal have had another stellar European run. Was he holding them back this whole time?

Back in 2008, Rio Ferdinand became the third man to captain Manchester United to a Champions League title. FFT’s Chris Flanagan spoke to Rio about that night - and why he thanked his lucky stars that Edwin van der Sar stopped him from taking the next penalty… 

Rio Ferdinand

(Image credit: Robert Wilson)

Let's get down to the head-to-heads. There have been four meetings between these two sides before - incredibly, though, there’s never been a goal. Manchester United and Villarreal were drawn in the 2005/06 and 2008/09 Champions League competitions but every game ended in a goalless draw.

FFT followers reckon United are going to win...

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It's closer than you may think. Just under two-thirds of you lot are expecting Ole to lift the Europa League tonight. 

Let's hear from the prime minister. 

Marcus Rashford: “You have to be more focused than the rest of the season - at Man United, you wanna be involved in finals. Ideally, you wanna be involved in more finals and if we’d done better in the league, we’d have been involved in a title challenge. The position that we’re in now, the Europa League final is a massive game for us.” 

Marcus Rashford

(Image credit: PA)

You Ask The Questions: Ole Gunnar Solskjaer

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer

(Image credit: Getty)

Would he rather play for van Gaal or fight a bear? Did he nearly go to Tottenham? And what did Sir Alex say to Ole on the touchline, 22 years ago, as he prepared to enter the Champions League final in 1999?

Your questions were put to the then-Molde manager back in 2016 - and here’s what he had to say!

Pre-match reading: Lewandowski at Lech Poznan

Here's a tenuous link for ya... 

Since the Europa League final tonight takes place in Poland, why not James Kelly's superb piece on the making of the nation's favourite son, Robert 'Lewangoalski' Lewandowski.

Both sides' strikers will be hoping to channel that kind of instinctive finishing tonight. 

Manchester United's line-up

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It's a strong team for Manchester United. Pogba and McTominay will play in the midfield partnership behind Greenwood, Bruno and Rashford. It's Cavani up top.

Villarreal's line-up

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It's a 4-4-2 from Villarreal, as Gerard Moreno is partnered up top with the veteran Carlos Bacca. Samuel Chukwueze misses out as expected - which is a relief for Luke Shaw.

Of course, not all of us have caught Europa fever tonight. 

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FFT's resident German football lover, Ed McCambridge, is busy enjoying perennial nearly-men Kiel potentially reaching the promised land tonight. 

Big up the Manchester United academy

United's academy have produced four starters in tonight's final. Came you name them all?

Nope, none of them are in yellow - it's not a trick question. 

There’s plenty of ex-Premier League talent in the ranks at Villarreal, isn’t there? Not only is ex-Arsenal boss Unai Emery there - with fellow ex-Gooner and quasimodo of London Colney, Francis Coquelin - but Alberto Moreno (Liverpool), Ramiro Funes-Mori (Everton), Geronimo Rulli (Manchester City), Etienne Capoue (Watford and Tottenham) and Juan Foyth (on loan from Spurs) are present in the squad. Leeds fans may also remember Alfonso Pedraza - he had a loan spell at Elland Road in 2017. Or maybe not. 

How will both teams fare tactically?

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Villarreal's flat banks of four will probably sit in deep, for this one. Unai Emery isn't afraid to cede possession and Ole Gunnar Solskjaer is probably expecting that - hence why he's named Cavani, Greenwood and Rashford all in the same line-up.

Paul Pogba becomes key tonight. He netted in the 2017 Europa League final and a year later, he was key alongside N'Golo Kanté at the World Cup in Russia, spraying balls from deep and again, getting on the scoresheet in the final.

Tonight, Ole deploys him in the same role. The Frenchman was bought for nights like this.

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He's at the wheel, lads.

Arsenal fans reading this - are there any of you out there? - may find tonight difficult to watch knowing that it could have been them. At least BT Sport have delighted them with the presence of little magician, Santi Cazorla, who's in Gdansk tonight to cheer on his former club, Villarreal. 

Altogether now: ohhhhhhhh Santi Cazoooorrrrrllaaaaaaaaa......

As far as FourFourTwo can work out, this is the first European final in our lifetime in which the two teams have had both an adjective and a noun in their nicknames. The Yellow Submarine vs the Red Devils. Answers on a postcard if we’ve missed another. 

"You're playing a team that is seventh?" Paul Scholes asks in the BT Sport build-up. "And think about how bad Real Madrid and Barcelona have been this year... Foyth? He was a bad player at Tottenham."

Blimey. This could be chopped up and memed by midnight if Unai gets it right tonight... 

Rich Jolly wrote about Unai Emery’s mockers before the Basque boss knocked old employers Arsenal out of the semi-final. Here’s what Rich had to say about the man facing Ole Gunnar Solskjaer tonight… 


Do you think there's an upset coming? Villarreal are 7/2 to get the win tonight with Betfred - and new customers can bet £10 to get £30 in Free Bets + 60 Free Spins 

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Fred certainly isn't flashy - but his omission is a particularly interesting one in tonight's line-up.

Solskjaer is going for Pogba over the Brazilian tonight, which could be a masterstroke...

Scott McTominay told the Manchester United website today ahead of this one that a Europa League win could be a springboard for bigger and better things next season.

“Of course, it’ll be a pleasure to play in,” the midfielder said. “It’s something we’ve worked hard for: over the course of the year, every single game in the Europa League has mattered. If we finish the season with a trophy and with second, we’ve got to take that on to next season and push on from there.”

Unai Emery, famously, has a hat-trick of Europa League medals in his cabinet at home. But his aggregate score in those finals? 7-7. 

He won his first final on penalties against Benfica after a goalless stalemate, the second 3-2 against the now-defunct Dnipro and outwitted Jurgen Klopp for the third, 3-1, against Liverpool. 

That 4-1 Baku obliteration for Arsenal against Chelsea, though… 

KICK-OFF Manchester United start the match, kicking left to right.

Plenty of Villarreal fans there tonight...

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Don’t bother looking at the league form to try and draw conclusions on how Unai Emery’s sides will fare in Europe. When the Basque coach picked up his third Europa title with Sevilla in 2016, they were assured and professional in dismantling Liverpool - a far cry from their seventh-placed La Liga campaign in which Emery had failed to snatch three points away from home. 

Sevilla drew nine, lost 10 and didn’t win once on the road that season. Ouch. 

3 min: Manchester United have assumed dominance. The Red Devils are passing the ball around confidently, as Villarreal back off and looking to hit on the counter. The tone is set from the off.

6 min: Scott McTominay drags a shot wide. That's the first effort of the game. 

7min: Why is Juan Foyth no.8 for the Yellow Submarine, exactly? Cheikhou Kouyaté is the only other defender we can think of with the number but he's a converted midfielder. Please, @FourFourTwo if you can name another in European football right now. 

8min: Juan Foyth's game could be over already. The Argentinian seemed to slip on the ball, as Paul Pogba clattered into him. He has a nosebleed and the stretcher is coming on for Foyth. Not the way any of us - particularly the Villarreal fans - wanted this one to go. Hopefully he can continue.

FFT's Ed McCambridge notices a hot young talent on the United bench...

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11min: Pogba is offside following a United corner. Villarreal working that offside trap nicely. 

14 min: Villarreal free-kick inside the United half. Eric Bailly going in hard from the start.   

Everyone's favourite defender with a no.8 on his back, Foyth, is back on the field for the Yellow Submarine, by the way. 

15 min: Is Row Z the back of the stadium, these days? Stadiums have multiple tiers and they're so tall... anyway, Manuel Trigueros just ran onto a cross and whacked it into Row Z. 

Manchester United players who will win their first major honour tonight, should United triumph: Harry Maguire, Mason Greenwood, Victor Lindelof, Dan James, Amad Diallo, Dean Henderson, Aaron Wan-Bissaka and Scott McTominay. 

This will also be the most prestigious trophy that Bruno Fernandes has won at club level, after he picked up the Portuguese equivalent of the FA Cup and League Cup at Sporting. 

19 min: CHANCE! The ball drops to Luke Shaw who fizzes it across goal and wide. If Bruno gets his littlest toe to that, it's 1-0 to Ole's Tricky Reds.

22 min: Carlos Bacca rabonas the ball into Pau Torres who heads over. Love the audacity of anyone who tries a rabona in a major final.

23 min: Scott McTominay appears to be covering in at right-back, as Aaron Wan-Bissaka pushes further on ahead to press Alfonso Pedraza, every time the Villarreal left-back is in possesson. Has Ole identified a weakness?

25 min: CHANCE! Yeremy Pino unleashes what can only be described as an unsuccessful piledriver from 30 yards which trickles past David De Gea's post.  

28 min: GOAL! A foul on Parejo from Edinson Cavani leads to a free-kick; Gerard Moreno gets his 30th goal of the season as he beats the offside trap and taps it in from the far post.

Manchester United now have to do what no one has done this season in Europe: beat Villarreal. 

Only two teams have been unbeaten in Europe this season: one of them is from Manchester and the other is Villarreal. Unai Emery’s side have drawn just two games on the ride to Gdansk. And the Manchester side - sorry! - is City. 

It's VILLARREAL 1-0 MANCHESTER UNITED and we're underway again.

33 min: Ole Gunnar Solskjaer is furiously tapping the 'Demand More' button and getting into his players. United are rattled.

35 min: Better from United. Wan Bissaka and McTominay have both just been on driving runs and whipped balls into the box. They're going to create chances - but are they going to bury them? 

Wanna know something surprising? Course you do! With 55% possession this season, Villarreal have had more of the ball than Manchester United have - 54%. With United scalpel-sharp on the counter, surely they'd be happy without the ball, just for five minutes...

42 min: Manchester United essentially have 2-2-6 right now. The centre-backs are sitting behind Pogba and McTominay; the full-backs are high and Bruno is dropping to connect. It could go like this for another 45 minutes...

45 min: CHANCE! Greenwood just drives down the right-wing, smashes a cross in and Albiol's gentlemanly area cushions the goal into Geronimo Rulli's grateful grasp. 


Much work to be done for the Red Devils in the second half. But they are the comeback kings, remember...

Need to take your mind off things, United fans? Here's a quiz for you.

We're looking for every Manchester United line-up to win a Champions League or Europa League final. You've got 10 minutes... 

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We did say we were worried about Scholesy's confidence...

KICK-OFF The second period gets underway in Gdansk, with Manchester United trailing 1-0 to Villarreal. Huge half for United. 

52 min: POSSIBLE PENALTY Mason Greenwood takes a swing at a ball inside the Villarreal box, only for his foot to meet a defender's. It looks sore for both parties. The referee decides there's nothing doing, however, and on we go. 

54 min: GOAL FOR MAN UTD! A Luke Shaw corner is nodded away, only for Marcus Rashford to smack a low volley back towards goal. The ensuing scramble ends with the ball ricocheting straight into the path of an unmarked Cavani, who doesn't even have the keeper to beat. The referee checks VAR for foul play (honestly, anything could have happened in that box) but it's all gravy. Manchester United are level.

58 min: CHANCE! United are full of beans now. A deep AWB cross finds Luke Shaw at the far post and the England man nods it back across for McTominay to swing a boot at on the edge of the box. 

His strike is blocked but the rebound rolls out to Cavani (who else?) who blasts a shot wide. 

63 min: POSSIBLE PENALTY A Bruno Fernando cross strikes the arm of a defender and the United players all do the classic arms-raised appeal. It's not given, though. 

Who needs Harry Maguire, eh?

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70 min: CHANCE! Marcus Rashford has just missed a sitter after Cavani finds him on the penalty spot with a stunning first time cross. He bundles it worse than a British government lockdown announcement, though, and it trickles wide. 

He would have been offside, it transpires. But he didn't know that!

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71 min: CHANCE! Luke Shaw finds space just inside the Villarreal box and smashes a cross towards Cavani that looks genuinely violent. The Uruguayan, mere yards from goal, takes the full force of it on the forehead and sends it towards goal. Somehow, somehow, a defender happens to be in the perfect place to block it. Massive slice of luck!

76 min: Double substitution for Villarreal as Moi Gomes comes on for Trigueros and Paco Alcacer also enters the fray for Pino. Alcacer was utterly lethal for Borussia Dortmund two years ago but is only mildly so these days. Six in 9 UEL games isn't to be sniffed at, mind.

FFT, covering the topics that *really matter*...

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85 min: Juan Foyth - who is beginning to resemble Mr Bump (ask your dad) with his bandaged head and cotton wool stuffed up one nostril - is rightly booked for a nasty looking challenge on Luke Shaw. Fortunately the Manchester United left-back is 90% dough, and is back on his feet in no time. 

90 min: CHANCE Luke Shaw whips in a smart looking cross into the box but Villarreal are packed in like sardines. Pogba climbs highest but his header disappears out of camera shot, up into the night sky. This is going to extra time, wethinks...

KICK OFF EXTRA TIME: Come on now, gents. We want penalties if we're bothering with another half an hour of this. 

95 min: Things are pretty tense, with little happening other than Scott McTominay crunching into tackles in the centre of the pitch, so here's an amazing stat to pass the time...

David De Gea’s last penalty save was against Romelu Lukaku… when the Belgian was at Everton!

97 min: Mason Greenwood is substituted for Fred. Both he and Marcus Rashford have struggled to get going tonight. Could the Brazilian's introduction be a sign Ole fancies pens?

105 min: A dinked Pogba pass finds Rashford in behind the defence but he's offside. It's not been the England forward's night and it's incredible he's not been subbed yet. It's too late now, mind. He's definitely a penalty talker. 

HALF TIME IN EXTRA TIME: A tense 15 minutes comes to a close with neither side looking likely to score. This is going all the way, mark our words...

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KICK OFF EXTRA TIME SECOND HALF: Come on, lads, let's keep it nice and calm. We all want to see a shootout. 

108 min: Not sure about you, but this is the time of night that the cheese and biscuits start making an appearance round here. 

110 min: Paco Alcacer - who came on late in this game and still has fresh legs - has only started six matches in the Europa League for Villarreal this season, and has six goals in the competition. Watch out, United.

112 min: POSSIBLE PENALTY Villarreal go on the attack which ends with Alcacer smashing a ball into Fred's hand from point blank range. It'd be horribly harsh but you've seen them given. The ref wants pens too, the absolute chap! 

116 min: Double substitution from United, with Dan James and Axel Tuanzebe on for Pogba and Bailly. Penalty takers?

121 min: Another double sub as Mata and Telles come on for AWB and McTominay. These two are definitely taking pens. This is getting exciting! 

PENALTIES Oh my goodness, it's happening!


Moreno, who scored to make it 1-0 earlier on slots the ball to De Gea's bottom left. 1-0.


Juan Mata finesses his into the left of the net. That was cool as anything. 


The Spaniards go 2-1 up after shooting straight down the middle. 


But Alex Telles, who only just came on, fires home to the left. 


That was close! David De Gea gets a hand to Paco Alcacer's low drive, but it's hit just hard enough. 


But Bruno Fernandes is up next and he obviously levels. The man IS PENALTIES.


Alberto Moreno, previously of Liverpool, buries his in the bottom right. How United fans would have loved him to miss that. Very calm pen. 


Marcus Rashford levels. Goodness this is tense. 


Dani Parejo gives Villarreal the advantage. United now cannot afford to miss. 


Edinson Cavani absolutely blasts his home. Sudden death. 


Moi Gomes shoots straight down the middle. This is a top quality shootout. 


The keeper goes the right way but Fred spanks his penalty into the bottom right corner. Lovely pen. 


Albion rolls it into the bottom corner nonchalantly. Wow. 


Daniel James, top bins! Didn't look nervous for a second. 


Coquelin with possibly the coolest of the lot. Straight into the top corner. Absolutely unstoppable!


Luke Shaw, who looked very nervous, just about squeezes through the hands of the goalkeeper. Ooooft that was close!


Gaspar calmly hands Villarreal the lead again. This is extraordinary! 


Tuanzebe top corner. Lovely again. 


Villarreal back in front. If United do win this shootout it'll be through nerves of steel after going second every time. 


Lindelof powers his strike home. We'll be here all night. 


It's the goalkeepers now. Villarreal's Rulli buries his. 


David De misses! Villarreal are Europa League champions! 

De Gea shoots to the bottom right but it's easily saved. Unai Emery has his fourth Europa League title. Incredible shootout. Incredible scenes.