Manchester United cruise into Europa League final, Arsenal sunk by Villarreal

5 Min Read

Manchester United on Thursday had little difficulty in completing the job started with their semi-final first leg thrashing of Roma, progressing to the Europa League final on an 8-5 aggregate.

After a 6-2 win last week, a 3-2 defeat in Italy still secured easy progress for them.

But it will not be Premier League rivals Arsenal they meet in Poland’s Gdansk on May 26.

Rather, it is 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.

Manchester United’s entry to the final means the city of Manchester could claim both of the major European titles this year.

This is because neighbours Manchester City face Chelsea in the UEFA Champions League final three days later.

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

Manchester 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 goalkeeper 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,” Manchester United captain Harry Maguire said later.

“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 Manchester United manager Jose Mourinho next season, deservedly levelled when Edin Dzeko headed in from close range.

Soon after, Bryan Cristante fired in on the hour.

Manchester United goalkeeper 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 said. “It’s a pity for that second half in Manchester.

“Tonight we still had a few goals to score, but we exit the competition with our heads held high.”

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer had lost his previous four semi-finals as Manchester 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.

“Villarreal have missed out on so many semi-final chances to reach the final. But now, finally, we’ve done it,” said defender Pau Torres.

“It’s time to enjoy right now, but immediately important to prepare the final really well, because that’s an historic opportunity.”

They almost repeated their early goal from the first leg. But goalkeeper 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.

He also 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 Manchester United later this month.

Arsenal —- a lowly ninth on the domestic front —— 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.


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