The Red Devils boss waited until deep into extra-time before shuffling his pack against Villarreal, with his side eventually losing on penalties
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has sought to explain why he waited 100 minutes before making a substitution in Manchester United’s Europa League final defeat to Villarreal.
The Red Devils saw their four-year wait for major silverware extended when coming unstuck in Gdansk, with goalkeeper David de Gea missing the decisive spot-kick in a thrilling penalty shootout.
A 1-1 draw was played out across 120 minutes, with Edinson Cavani grabbing United’s goal on the night, but Solskjaer has faced criticism for refusing to shuffle his pack earlier in the game.
What has been said?
When quizzed on the decision not to turn to his bench, with Fred the first to be introduced deep into extra-time, Solskjaer said: “We felt the players out there, Mason [Greenwood], Marcus [Rashford], Bruno [Fernandes], Edi, match-winners, can create anything.
“Scott [McTominay], who I thought was the best player on the pitch, and Paul [Pogba], so it’s difficult to make that change, especially when Fred has been injured for a week. We just couldn’t create enough chances to win the game.
“We didn’t do enough in the 120 minutes to score more goals. That’s the disappointing bit.
“You’ve got players of high quality there, and we started with loads of goal scorers, match-winners, and hoped it would give us the upper hand.
“That disappointment is the worst feeling, these are the moments you remember most in your career, as a player and as a manager.
“You can go on your holiday and do nothing about it, or go home and do something about it, and come back even better, hungrier, stronger, and be better from the first minute.”
Who did Solskjaer bring on?
Fred replaced Greenwood in the 100th minute, with United beginning to tire by that point as they struggled to break down stubborn resistance from Villarreal.
Daniel James and Axel Tuanzebe were introduced in the second-half of extra-time, with Pogba and Eric Bailly being withdrawn, while Aaron Wan-Bissaka and McTominay made way for Juan Mata and Alex Telles as a penalty shootout became inevitable.
What now for United?
The Red Devils have secured a runner-up finish in the Premier League and graced a major European final, but they had been hoping for much more and tangible success remains elusive.
Solskjaer admits that the 2020-21 campaign cannot be considered a success in any way for his side , with ambition at Old Trafford dictating that second best is never enough.
The challenge now is to continue building and bounce back even stronger next season, with the summer transfer window set to present opportunities for fresh faces to be brought on board.
Solskjaer is planning on bolstering his ranks, with the Norwegian saying when asked how United can improve: “We, those who are here now, need to do better, work better, work harder, be cleverer.
“But two or three players to strengthen the starting XI and the squad altogether is important for us to go even further. I’m sure our challengers will also want to improve, so we’ll improve as much as we can.”