Man Utd manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer delivered an emphatic and immediate response when asked about the success of their season, and defended his players over a common criticism.
Man Utd suffered Europa League final heartbreak in extraordinary fashion by going down to Villarreal 11-10 in the penalty shootout. The Yellow Submarine took the lead through Gerard Moreno in the 29th minute, but Man Utd’s own centre-forward Edinson Cavani restored parity soon after the break. Both sides cancelled each other out for the remainder of the match and extra time, setting up a nerve-wracking shootout.
21 consecutive spot kicks were scored including that of Villarreal goalkeeper Geronimo Rulli. David De Gea stepped up seeking to roll the order over, but saw his low strike saved to deny Solskjaer his first major trophy as Red Devils boss.
Speaking to BT Sport after the match, the Norwegian said: “It’s quiet, a 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.
“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.”
Man Utd season not a success
Despite finishing second in the league and reaching the Europa League final, Solskjaer responded quickly and bluntly when asked if this represented a successful season.
“No,” snapped Solskjaer almost before the reporter could finish his question. “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.”
When asked if the Man Utd dressing room contains the right type of characters to consistently lift major honours – something many pundits including those in the BT studio have called into question, Solskjaer said: “Yeah.
“We missed two big ones today with Fred and Harry [Maguire]. We have a strong, competitive squad. The spirit in the squad is good. They’re gutted in there. Now is not the time to analyse the whole season.”