Manchester United suffered European heartache after a cruel 11-10 penalty shootout defeat via the unfortunate boot of David de Gea, who stroked his kick to the left of Gerónimo Rulli, whose save made him Villarreal’s hero.
It is always hard for whoever loses this way and for the goalkeeper to miss the vital spot-kick seems particularly cruel.
While not a single teammate will blame the Spaniard, what it means is a trying season ends with United facing a summer haunted by what might have been if they were only slicker in front of goal, and had not handed Gerard Moreno his first-half opener due to calamitous defending.
Edinson Cavani’s equaliser after the interval was indicative of United’s awkward rhythms in attack – his finish coming when the ball ricocheted to him – and a lingering image will be of the jubilant Villarreal players rushing to congratulate Rulli while passing a disconsolate De Gea.
The reverse means this Ole Gunnar Solskjær XI fail to write their names into the club’s history, defeat to Villarreal preventing United from claiming a sixth European trophy and joining those who did previously in 2017, 2008, 1999, 1991, and 1968.
Unai Emery’s team do become Villarreal immortals, though. This was a first European cup triumph and for the club whose stadium holds only 23,500 it is a fairytale that should be hailed.