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."

Manchester United star Marcus Rashford vented his frustration after the shock Europa League final loss to Villarreal, insisting finishing second counts for nothing, though he is confident the Red Devils are on the right path under Ole Gunnar Solskjaer.

United were looking to win their first trophy with Solskjaer at the helm, however, the Premier League giants were upstaged by Unai Emery's Villarreal following a marathon 11-10 penalty shoot-out on Wednesday.

Penalties were needed after the match ended 1-1 at the conclusion of extra time in Gdansk, where Edinson Cavani's 55th-minute goal cancelled out Gerard Moreno's first-half opener for Villarreal.

United goalkeeper David de Gea missed the only spot-kick as Solskjaer's men – who have not won silverware since 2016-17 – fell short following their second-placed finish in the Premier League this season.

"It's disappointing. The feeling is difficult to explain," Rashford told BT Sport. "We came here to win. We've been working so hard all season and this was the opportunity to win a trophy.

"Maybe not now, but we need to look back at the game and see where we can improve.

"The team will not give up, the manager will not give up. We'll come next season with a bigger desire. People say a lot about Manchester United, but for me the hunger, desire, talent and ability – we have everything to compete at the highest level.

"We just have to show it to the world and to ourselves, why we belong in places like this."

United have lost six of their last seven penalty shoot-outs in all competitions, only winning against Rochdale in the EFL Cup in September 2019 during that time.

When facing an English side in a European competition final (including Super Cups), Spanish sides have taken home the trophy in the last 10 such finals, with United accounting for four of those defeats (2009 and 2011 Champions League, 2017 Super Cup and 2021 Europa League).

"Second doesn't count for nothing. I don't want to hear, 'oh they were so close'. It doesn't mean anything. We have to make sure we don't lose," added Rashford.

"To win big trophies you have to show sacrifice. I can show you six, seven players who've been carrying injuries since September. We have to go away now and clear our heads.

"When Ole came in there was a process. We believe in the process and this isn't the end of the process. Just because we've lost today, I promise the fans that we won't give up.

"We have to do our best on the pitch. We're close, I promise we're close, but close isn't good enough."

Unai Emery claimed a record-breaking fourth UEFA Cup/Europa League title after Villarreal upstaged Manchester United for their first major European crown.

Villarreal conquered United in the Europa League final following a marathon 11-10 penalty shoot-out in Gdansk, where the match finished 1-1 after extra time.

Gerard Moreno's first-half opener was cancelled out by United star Edinson Cavani in the 55th minute and the showdown was decided on penalties.

United goalkeeper David de Gea missed the only penalty of a lengthy shoot-out as Emery became the first head coach to win either the UEFA Cup or Europa League four times, surpassing Giovanni Trapattoni.

Emery won the Europa League with Sevilla in 2014, 2015 and 2016.

LaLiga outfit Villarreal are the first side to win in their first appearance of a major European final since Shakhtar Donetsk in the 2008-09 UEFA Cup.

Alex Ferguson accompanied Manchester United to Gdansk for their Europa League final against Villarreal and there was an echo from his glorious era during the first half at Stadion Energa.

Flowing attacking football? Swashbuckling wing play?

Nope. Ole Gunnar Solskjaer was on the touchline shouting and swearing at his players. Swearing a lot.

The spark for that particular outburst after the half hour was Aaron Wan-Bissaka sending a routine pass out of play, but the United manager was already smouldering after Gerard Moreno gave Villareal the lead in soft fashion.

As Victor Lindelof forlornly grappled with the Spain striker – who is now the joint-top scorer in Villarreal history alongside former United youngster Giuseppe Rossi – it was easy to bemoan the absence of Harry Maguire, easy to imagine the England centre-back authoritatively dealing with the situation.

It should be pointed out that Gerard's 30 goals and 10 assists in all competitions this season show plenty of opponents haven't dealt with him too effectively and, in any case, it was those performances from United's big names that need not be imagined that were the problem.

Everywhere Solskjaer looked and raged, there were big names not turning up.

Bruno Fernandes, their superstar midfielder and captain in Maguire's absence, endured an abject first 45 minutes where he was entirely unable to impose his will on the contest.

The Portugal international's 23 passes and 31 touches were the eighth-lowest returns in the United team, with only forwards Mason Greenwood and Edinson Cavani and goalkeeper David de Gea less involved in possession. How De Gea would have loved to keep his part in this long, slow death of a penalty shootout defeat so minimal.

Fernandes also won none of five duels contested, while Paul Pogba – purposefully probing with 31 passes in the Villareal half, including one delicious effort with the outside of his foot to release Greenwood down the right wing – was the only saving grace in a team almost entirely devoid of creativity.

Nevertheless, as bad as they were, there was not reason to worry unduly, understandable as Solskjaer's agitation was. This is just what his United do.

In 10 away games in the Premier League this season they conceded first, only to win nine and draw one of those contests Even on neutral territory, Villarreal must have known what was coming.

The pressure on Unai Emery's defence was more about volume than quality, but Fernandes was there to force the issue in the 55th minute as Luke Shaw's corner was partially cleared and his drive cannoned off a few legs and fell to the lurking Cavani.

When Shaw mishit a right-footed swipe at his forehead and Greenwood later got in the way of the veteran striker, it almost felt as if United were trying to test Cavani's masterful penalty box prowess.

What they wouldn't have given to have the Uruguay international on the of Fernandes' cross with 20 minutes remaining. Instead, Marcus Rashford produced a truly howling miss, one worryingly in keeping with the final months of a season where Solskjaer repeatedly sending him back to the well appears to have taken a toll.

Rashford wasn't the only player who did not need extra time. By the conclusion of a forgettable half hour, notable only for weary limbs and a flurry of late United substitutions after Emery reasserted some control with his more judicious deployment of fresh legs, everyone seemed happy enough to let penalties seal their fate.

For all the parallels this season with those old Fergie qualities – the comebacks, the late winners, the fast attacks – United were rudderless for far too much of this final, particularly as the shootout loomed.

They remain a team dependent on moments, moments they frequently produce, but lacking a foundation for when games end up in the mire.

Of course, poor old De Gea had moments. Eleven of them whistled past a prostrate body or outstretched gloves before a fateful 12th. The Spain goalkeeper's ordeal versus this admirable club from his homeland will linger long in the memory, but a team of United's resources should never have allowed events to spiral to that moment of torment.

For all the notable approximations of their glory years under a fan favourite, there remains much to be done for Solskjaer's United if they are to escape nights such as this where they look like little more than a straining Ferguson-era tribute act.

David de Gea missed the only penalty of a marathon shootout as Villarreal won the Europa League with victory over Manchester United at Gdansk Stadium.

Gerard Moreno opened the scoring in the first half of a poor final in Poland on Wednesday to move level with Giuseppe Rossi as the Yellow Submarine's leading all-time goalscorer with 82 - 30 of which have come this season.

Edinson Cavani equalised early in the second half with his sixth goal in five Europa League games for United and the two sides remained level at 1-1 after extra time.

There had been an astonishing 21 successful spot-kicks until United goalkeeper De Gea's tame effort was kept out by his opposite number Geronimo Rulli, with Villarreal winning the shootout 11-10.

Villarreal go into the Champions League next season after winning their first major European trophy, with head coach Unai Emery having lifted this trophy an incredible four times.

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, on the other hand, remains without a trophy during his tenure after a flat performance from United.

Manchester United captain Harry Maguire was named on the bench for Wednesday's Europa League final with Villarreal.

The centre-back's participation in the final was put into significant doubt this month when he suffered ankle ligament damage during United's 3-1 win at Aston Villa.

United boss Ole Gunnar Solskjaer had previously said he expected Maguire to miss the Gdansk showpiece.

But Maguire at least had a chance of being involved after earning a place among the substitutes as United eyed their first piece of silverware since winning the same competition back in 2017.

Eric Bailly partnered Victor Lindelof at the heart of United's defence, which David de Gea played behind after he was preferred to Dean Henderson in goal.

Villarreal coach Unai Emery also faced a difficult decision in between the posts, and the former Arsenal manager selected Geronimo Rulli over Sergio Asenjo for their first major European final.

Gerard Moreno is the danger man United's defence needed to guard against. Gerard was handed a start up front alongside Carlos Bacca, having scored six goals in this season's tournament.

Paco Alcacer, who has matched that tally, provided a goalscoring threat off the bench after being left out in favour of teenage winger Yeremy.

Zlatan Ibrahimovic has been fined €50,000 by UEFA for having a financial interest in a betting company.

UEFA last month announced it was investigating Ibrahimovic after Swedish publication Aftonbladet claimed the Milan striker was potentially in breach of FIFA regulations due to apparent involvement in the Maltese gambling company Bethard.

It was claimed that a business Ibrahimovic owns holds 10 per cent of Bethard's shares, making it their fourth-largest shareholder.

Icon Ibrahimovic became a global ambassador for the company in 2018.

European football's governing body on Wednesday revealed the former Paris Saint-Germain and Manchester United star has been hit in the pocket for violating Article 12(2)(b) of the UEFA Disciplinary Regulations.

The chairman of the UEFA Appeals Body also issued Ibrahimovic with a directive aimed at ceasing his association with the relevant betting company.

Serie A club Milan have also been fined €25,000 due to Ibrahimovic's financial interest in the betting company.

It is another blow for Ibrahimovic, who was ruled out of the rescheduled Euro 2020 due to a knee injury.

Eric Bailly has warned Manchester United he will only remain at Old Trafford as long as he is a first-team regular, despite last month signing a contract extension.

The centre-back's new deal keeps him at United until 2024, when his previous contract had been set to expire at the end of next season.

But Bailly suggests that agreement will count for little if he remains on the fringes of Ole Gunnar Solskjaer's team.

The ex-Villarreal defender, who hopes to face his former club in Wednesday's Europa League final, has featured in only 20 (33.3 per cent) of United's 60 games in all competitions so far this season, ranking 19th in the Red Devils squad.

And that mark is roughly par for Bailly's United career, having appeared in only 105 (35.7 per cent) and started just 92 (31.3 per cent) of the 294 matches the club have played since his 2016 signings.

Injuries have played their part, with knee and groin issues keeping the player out for extended periods over the past five years, but he has been an unused substitute 18 times this term alone.

This season's 1,590 minutes are Bailly's most since his debut campaign in England (3,230) but still trail Harry Maguire (4,653) and Victor Lindelof (3,908) by some distance.

"Competition is always good to improve," Bailly told The Times. "I just say that I want to stay in case I get the chance to play.

"I don't want to be a starter one game and a substitute for another five.

"If that happens, I will have to look for another solution. The new contract is fine but if I don't play I will be open to listen to other proposals."

Only 39 of Bailly's United outings have come since Solskjaer was appointed in December 2018, in which time the 20-time English champions have played 150 times.

But the defender, who has therefore featured in just 26.0 per cent of the manager's games, was encouraged by discussions prior to signing the contract extension.

"I spoke to him and he told me he wanted me to stay," Bailly added.

"The most important thing was not the renewal but the conversation we had: we sat down, we talked and he told me what he wanted from me and that he wanted me to continue."

Unai Emery insists the idea of "revenge" will not be in his thought process against Manchester United as his past difficulties with Arsenal continue to draw focus.

For the first time in Villarreal's history, they will contest a major European final on Wednesday when Emery's team go up against Ole Gunnar Solskjaer's Red Devils.

But the coach's previous work at Arsenal remains a talking point ahead of the Europa League final in Gdansk, with Emery often ridiculed by English football fans and sections of the media during his time in London.

He got one over on his old club in the semi-finals, however, with his team seeing off Arsenal to end Villarreal's European drought – the Yellow Submarine had been eliminated in each of their previous four semi-finals, UEFA Cup/Europa League semis in 2004, 2011 and 2016 and the Champions League final four in 2006.

Emery guided Arsenal to the Europa League final in 2019 before he was sacked by the Gunners in November that year, replaced by fellow Spaniard Mikel Arteta.

In fact, since the competition's rebranding in 2009-10, Emery has reached the Europa League final on more occasions than any other head coach (five – 2014, 2015, 2016, 2019 and 2021). The Spaniard has won the trophy on three of the previous four occasions he has reached the showpiece, all with Sevilla.

Now he is aiming to achieve success with Villarreal, though he insists any desire to win the trophy has nothing to do with the fact his opponents are English.

"Not at all," he told reporters when asked whether "revenge" was on the cards. "I feel an obligation to Villarreal, this badge, this club, this president.

"I am proud to be able to defend this Villarreal project. There is no revenge with the English teams or people. I am proud to play in this final defending Villarreal’s colours."

Diego Forlan, who played for both clubs during his impressive career, stressed in an interview with Stats Perform that United are not favourites for the match, despite the general consensus suggesting otherwise.

Emery accepts "history and experience" are on United's side, adding that most would have considered them front-runners at the start of the knockout stage.

Yet he is in no doubt that the Yellow Submarine have more than a fighting chance.

"We cannot escape reality. A few months ago we said Man United were among the favourites for the competition," Emery said. "Now we are in the same situation, but we are firm candidates for this title and play against the favourites.

"They have good players, history and experience, but we have a very strong recent history to deserve these moments."

Bruno Fernandes and Luke Shaw are adamant Manchester United do not need any form of motivation or inspiration from the club's iconic former manager Alex Ferguson ahead of Wednesday's Europa League final.

United face Villarreal in Gdansk as they look to win their first piece of silverware since Ole Gunnar Solskjaer replaced Jose Mourinho in December 2018.

Solskjaer's former boss Ferguson is staying in the same hotel as the United squad and has been particularly prominent in the media of late, granting numerous interviews after largely avoiding the press in his eight years since retirement.

Ferguson led United to two Champions League successes – among many other titles – during his storied reign at the club, therefore knows plenty about the pressures and emotions that come with such occasions.

But Shaw and Fernandes stressed they are in no need of any extra motivation or pep talks from Ferguson as they look to sink the Yellow Submarine.

Speaking to the media, Shaw said: "I wouldn't expect him to speak to us. I am sure we don't need people to inspire us for the game tomorrow, as much of a legend as he [Ferguson] is.

"Inside our group we need to do that ourselves. Of course, I'm sat next to the manager now and I am sure he'll be doing that tomorrow, so I'm not sure we'll be seeing too much of Sir Alex tomorrow."

Fernandes continued: "I think we have a coach who passed a lot of time with Alex Ferguson so everything he could say to us, he [Solskjaer] already knows. We trust our coach.

"The team is confident. We trust ourselves, we know what we have to do. This is our moment to do our best.

"We trained well the days before, we have another day to train. Make the job tomorrow, enjoy the moment – being in the final is not for everyone."

It will be United's first European final since the 2016-17 edition of this competition, when they defeated Ajax 2-0 under Mourinho – before that they had gone nine years without a trophy in Europe.

Even reaching the final this time around is something of a milestone, particularly for Solskjaer, as United's record in semi-finals prior to their two-legged tie with Roma was poor under the Norwegian.

The 8-5 aggregate win over Roma ended a run of four successive semi-final eliminations for United under Solskjaer, whose only other final as a manager was in the 2013 Norwegian Cup, and the club's players will relish the chance to end their trophy drought.

"We come to this club because we want to win. It doesn't matter if the club doesn't win for many years, the hope is still there," Fernandes said.

"Trophies are part of this club. Every player knows he will come to United to fight for trophies, to be a better player.

"If you look to history, you have to look to the history, pressure is part of your life. I like the pressure, that's good for me.

"The most important for us is to try to win the game. Everything can happen, but we can control some stuff. Most importantly, the team is growing up and tomorrow will be a sign of that."

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer hopes the presence of Sir Alex Ferguson will help inspire his Manchester United players to "take the next step" by winning the Europa League.

Legendary former manager Ferguson, who won 38 trophies in 26 years at Old Trafford, has travelled with the United squad to Gdansk ahead of Wednesday's final with Villarreal 

The Red Devils face Spanish side Villarreal seeking their first silverware since Solskjaer took over from Jose Mourinho in December 2018, initially on a caretaker basis.

It also marks just Solskjaer's second final as a manager, having won the 2013 Norwegian Cup with Molde, where he also lifted the Tippeligaen in 2011 and 2012.

After ending his curse of losing in four cup semi-finals as United boss, Solskjaer believes a first trophy for his current crop of players can be a springboard for further success.

"Of course, when players get the taste of success, it can go one of two ways," Solskjaer said at Tuesday's pre-match news conference. 

"Now we've done it, or how I felt before, it gives you that feeling of being hungry for more. You want that feeling again. 

"For this group, working hard for a year or two, it's a next step for them now to go and enjoy a game like this.

"These are big nights for us. It might be the stepping stone for something better to come. This team is a young team, a team that we've rebuilt. 

"Hopefully this is the start of something more. Sir Alex is with us, the 26th of May is Sir Matt [Busby]'s birthday. 

"When the players sign for Manchester United, they sign to win, to accept the challenge of being the best. 

"This is the best club of the world, this is the pleasure of the pressure. They wouldn't have signed if they weren't top players."

Asked about Ferguson's role in United's preparations, Solskjaer said: "He flew out with us yesterday. Some of us went to see his documentary.

"I sat there thinking about this special man. He's an encyclopaedia of football. When we eat in the restaurant, if the players wonder about something, they can ask him. 

"He's always available. I hope he's going to enjoy it as well. I owe most of my career to him and this club."

Wednesday's match will be United's eighth major European final, which is the second-most of any English club after Liverpool (14).

United, who have won five of those previous seven finals, are expected to be without key man Harry Maguire against Villarreal as the defender continues to nurse an ankle injury.

Maguire was included in United's squad, despite missing his side's final four league games of the season, but Solskjaer is not overly confident the centre-back will be ready to feature.

"We've prepared well," Solskjaer said. "Anthony [Martial] didn't make it, Phil [Jones] of course didn't make it and Harry is just probably going to jog up and down the sideline [in training].

"He'll probably try to join in the training session a little but apart from that we're looking quite good.

"It's always difficult to leave players out. But throughout the whole season, a final is a reward for what you've done the whole season.

"We'll enjoy the last training session and the players will learn the team tomorrow."

United rounded off their Premier League campaign with a 2-1 win at Wolves to finish in second place, 12 points behind runaway champions Manchester City.

Solskjaer is pleased with the progress made season-on-season and insists his players will be ready for the huge showdown with Unai Emery's Villarreal.

"I've got enough self-belief in myself, whatever circumstances I've been in," he said.  "I trust in the players, who I know are ready. I've seen in them something growing.

"I'm confident that we're ready for this now. Every player who goes into a final has the pressure to win. You have to play to win, we expect to win, but I'm sure Unai feels the same. 

"It's been a long qualification to get here and it's 50-50. I feel confident that we are ready for this. In a final, anything can happen and we have to be ready for everything."

United are facing Villarreal for a fifth time, with each of the previous four meetings – all in the Champions League between 2005-06 and 2008-09 – finishing goalless 

The Red Devils have faced Villarreal more times without ever scoring than they have any other opponent in their history.

Bruno Fernandes says comparisons with Manchester United icon Eric Cantona motivate him to become even better. 

The Portugal international has enjoyed a sensational season for the Red Devils, scoring 28 goals and making 18 assists across all competitions. 

Eighteen of his goals and 12 of the assists came in 37 Premier League appearances as United secured second place and consecutive top-four finishes for the first time since 2013. 

Fernandes' form helped him win United's Player of the Year award for a second straight season, the midfielder receiving an overwhelming 63 per cent of the votes cast by supporters.

Fernandes followed in the footsteps of Cristiano Ronaldo, Ruud van Nistelrooy, Roy Keane and David de Gea to become only the fifth player in United history to win the club's annual award in consecutive campaigns.

It is another United great Fernandes has been compared to, though.

Cantona lit up the Premier League between 1992 and 1997 and former Sporting CP man Fernandes says he is "honoured" to be spoken about in the same breath as the Frenchman.

"It is an honour to be compared with him because the impact he had was really high and he won many major trophies with the club," Fernandes told BBC Sport.

"But when you are compared with this kind of big player, it means you need to be better every day. It makes me work harder to keep in the mind of the people, being compared with him. That, for me, is a good pressure."

Fernandes is out on his own as United's top scorer this season, with Marcus Rashford seven goals adrift of the 26-year-old. 

His most recent strike, a deflected effort in the 4-2 defeat to Liverpool on May 13, saw him overtake Frank Lampard as the highest scoring midfielder for a Premier League club across all competitions in a single campaign. Lampard scored 27 times for Chelsea in 2009-10.

Yet Fernandes rejects suggestions he has done much of the heavy lifting for Ole Gunnar Solskjaer's side this season, insisting the club would not have enjoyed as successful a campaign without the support of his team-mates.

"It is such a big club. It would be heavy to lift it myself," he added. "Of course, I did really well. I know that, from my numbers, my performance, everything.

"But this comes from the help and trust of my team-mates. They have helped me to be better every day. And if they help me, I know I can help them."

United are aiming to claim their first piece of silverware since 2017 when they face Villarreal in the Europa League final on Wednesday. 

While a major trophy and a second-placed finish in the Premier League would be considered a success by many, Fernandes is targeting more next term. 

"This team is improving," he said. "Everyone can see it. We are growing up and understand together we can reach better things.

"The most important thing for me about next season is being all together; the club, players and fans pushing to the same side. 

"If we all do that, we could do many good things next season, which, I am pretty sure, will be much better than this one."

Manchester United are not favourites against Villarreal in a "50-50" Europa League final, according to Diego Forlan, who played for both clubs.

United face the LaLiga side in Gdansk on Wednesday as manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer aims to get his hands on a first piece of silverware in the role.

This is United's eighth major European final but Villarreal's first.

Forlan feels this history has skewed perceptions of the match, though, with Villarreal unbeaten in Europe this season and led by Unai Emery, who is aiming to become the first coach to win the UEFA Cup or Europa League four times.

"I don't think Manchester United is the favourite," Forlan told Stats Perform.

"People say Manchester United due to its history, what it means, and for being such a big club. No doubt it is.

"However, for the game, the past is useless, what counts is the present, the performance itself.

"That's why players for Manchester United are careful, because they know they can win but also they can lose, 50-50.

"Maybe people are underrating what Villarreal history has. It is a team who always compete very well. They play very good football and they can hurt Manchester United."

Forlan left United for Villarreal in 2004 and featured against the Old Trafford outfit when the sides met for the first time in September 2005.

He was absent for the return match two months later, however, and had left before their most recent clashes in 2008-09.

All four games between the sides have ended 0-0, making Villarreal the opponents United have faced most in their history without ever scoring.

The Red Devils might also be wary of Spanish teams' recent records against English opposition in finals, with the past nine meetings – since Liverpool beat Alaves 5-4 in the 2000-01 UEFA Cup – seeing the LaLiga side come out on top.

Emery was in charge for one of those nine, overseeing a Europa League final victory against Liverpool with Sevilla in 2015-16.

"[Emery] is a very experienced coach," Forlan added. "He has been coaching many years. He has won the Europa League and was also in the final with Arsenal when they lost against Chelsea.

"It is a guy that knows this competition very well. I think it is good for the team when you have a coach with the experience, the support that he has.

"It doesn't give you everything you need to win the final, but it gives you a little bit of support, which is good when you go into a game like this."


The UEFA Europa League Final is full of the most exciting action and unpredictable moments – choose yours now for a chance to win an epic prize bundle at uefa.com/UELMoment

For the first time under Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, Manchester United are preparing for a final.

The Europa League might not be top of the agenda for Solskjaer's United ambitions but, after four semi-final defeats as manager in three different competitions, he will be delighted to have a shot at what could be the Red Devils' first trophy since they won this competition in 2017.

Of course, this is also a momentous occasion for Villarreal: a first European final of any kind against a team who have been in these matches seven times previously. However, the Spaniards boast experience in coach Unai Emery, who won this trophy on three occasions while in charge of Sevilla.

Ahead of the first major final in European competition this week, Stats Perform examines the key Opta data...

The Coaches

When it comes to experience at this stage, Emery certainly has the edge.

The former Arsenal boss lifted this trophy three years in a row from 2014 to 2016 and could become the first coach to win either the UEFA Cup or Europa League four times.

Solskjaer, however, has contested only one final in his managerial career: he won the 2013 Norwegian Cup with Molde. Indeed, no Norwegian coach has ever won a major European trophy.

Emery and Solskjaer have faced off twice before in the Premier League, when the Spaniard was at Arsenal. The Gunners won 2-0 at Emirates Stadium in March 2019, ending Solskjaer's unbeaten league start at United, before a 1-1 draw at Old Trafford in September of that year.

However, it was Solskjaer who came out on top when they met in a knockout fixture, United triumphing 3-1 in north London in an FA Cup tie in January 2019. Their goals in that tie came from Alexis Sanchez, Jesse Lingard and Anthony Martial - none of whom will be involved in Gdansk.

The Records

While Emery is chasing history of his own, Villarreal are hoping to become the 10th Spanish team in a row to defeat an English side in a European final - a run that includes United losing twice to Barcelona in the Champions League.

United have found it tough going against the Yellow Submarine in the past. In fact, the Red Devils have faced Villarreal more often without scoring than any other side in their history, with each of their previous four meetings ending 0-0.

However, United have won five of the seven major European finals they have contested (only Liverpool, with 14, have been in more among English sides). A win would secure the 67th trophy in their history, extending their lead over Liverpool (65) when it comes to England's most successful clubs.

The Star Names

All eyes will be on Bruno Fernandes in his first final for United.

The Portugal star has played 57 times this season, more than anyone else in Europe's top-five leagues, providing 28 goals and 18 assists. Only four players across those top leagues have been directly involved in more goals. His 137 chances created surpasses anyone else.

Wednesday could also see Mason Greenwood make his first career appearance in a final. Should he score, he would become only the second English teenager to do so in a major European final, the first being Brian Kidd, who netted on his 19th birthday when United beat Benfica in the 1968 European Cup final.

At the other end of the career spectrum sits Edinson Cavani, who has averaged a goal or assist every 35 minutes in this season's Europa League, the best return of anyone to play at least 200 minutes in the competition.

Cavani, who has 10 league goals in just 13 starts in his first season with the club, is bidding to become the third player aged 34 or over to score in a major European final for an English side, after Gary McAllister in the 2001 UEFA Cup final and Didier Drogba in the 2012 Champions League final.

Carlos Bacca has history in this fixture, having scored twice in the final six years ago for Sevilla. The Colombian could become the first player to score in a major European final for two teams from the same nation since Hernan Crespo, who was on target for Parma in 1999 and then Milan in 2005.

Villarreal's main threat will likely come through Gerard Moreno. With 29 goals and 10 assists in all competitions, he has been the most dangerous Spanish forward in Europe this term. Indeed, Lionel Messi (50) is the only player from LaLiga with more direct goal involvements.

Edinson Cavani's success at Manchester United has not come as a surprise to former Red Devils and Uruguay forward Diego Forlan.

Cavani has starred since joining United on a free transfer from Ligue 1 giants Paris Saint-Germain at the start of the 2020-21 season – the veteran's exploits resulting in a one-year contract extension.

The 34-year-old has scored 16 goals across all competitions this term – above his expected goals (xG) of 13.6 – as United prepare for Wednesday's Europa League final against Villarreal, having finished runners-up to Manchester City in the Premier League.

Cavani boasts a 128.9 minutes-to-goal ratio in 2020-21 – the best mark among his United team-mates, ahead of Bruno Fernandes (159.3), Marcus Rashford (192.1) and Mason Greenwood (254.0).

Forlan, who played alongside Cavani for Uruguay, hailed the in-form United star.

"Edinson Cavani is a great player, I know him. We played alongside each other for many years in the national team, I am really happy for him," Forlan said.

"Surprised? No. No, because I know his capacity and the way he plays. He is a very professional athlete, a good guy.

"So I am not surprised, I knew that he would be the player that he is now, and I am really happy for him that he will continue for one year more [at United]."

Cavani has scored five goals and provided two assists in only 247 minutes of Europa League action this season, averaging either a goal or an assist every 35 minutes – the best return of any player with at least 200 minutes played in the competition this campaign.

He could become the third player aged 34 or above to score in a major European final for an English club, after Gary McAllister (36) for Liverpool in the UEFA Cup final against Deportivo Alaves in 2000-01 and Didier Drogba (34) for Chelsea in the Champions League decider versus Bayern Munich in 2011-12.

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