It was a night to forget for David De Gea as Manchester United failed at the final hurdle when they lost to Unai Emery’s Villarreal in the Polish port city of Gdańsk on Wednesday night. The Red Devils, who have done so well this term both at home and abroad, were unable to net the first major honor of the Ole Gunnar Solskjær regime.
Man United have now gone four straight seasons without winning a trophy 💔 pic.twitter.com/G36sr2zLtx
— ESPN FC (@ESPNFC) May 26, 2021
Villarreal took the lead through none other than Gerard Moreno inside 30-minutes, with the Spanish international putting the accent point on a wonderful 2020-21 that has seen him net 30-goals and 10-assists across all competitions for the Yellow Submarine this term. But United would battle back through Edinson Cavani and draw level on 55-minutes in a match that took shape precisely how many would have guessed.
Emery, now a four-time winner of the competition having won it on three occasions with Sevilla, was happy to surrender the bulk of possession to United in a similar scheme that saw Villarreal negotiate Arsenal across two legs in the semi-final. In the end, it would all come down to penalties at the Polsat Plus Arena Gdańsk, where heartbreak for one Red Devil, in particular, is likely the final act of a career at the Theatre of Dreams which has hardly played out like many would have hoped.
Double penalty heartbreak for David Dea Gea
With the penalty shootout rolling into the eleventh round after every single taker from both sides converted from the spot, the spotlight fell on Spanish international goalkeeper and longtime United servant David De Gea to keep the Red Devils alive. He failed in that task.
Can’t blame De Gea for the penalty miss, but he’s now failed to save his last 35 spot-kicks. He didn’t look like saving any either. With all the info keepers now have on penalties, that’s just not good enough for a keeper of his reputation
— Mark Ogden (@MarkOgden_) May 26, 2021
No one could blame De Gea for failing to slot home from 12-yards-out after Gerónimo Rulli saved his effort and thus confirming Villarreal bagging their first-ever major piece of silverware in the clubs’ history. But to make matters worse, the former Atlético Madrid shot-stopper failed to save a single opposition penalty before being rebuffed similarly by his opposite number when his name was up.
In total, De Gea has faced thirty-five penalties during his time at the club since 2011 and has yet to save a single one. For some, that stat is damning considering the gravitas attached to his name and the career he has had to date; a combined 400-appearances for Atlético and United while also winning 45-caps for Spain.
The aftermath of the failure in Gdańsk will unquestionably rekindle the flames of debate and whether or not United should move on from Dea Gea, especially after he had lost his place in Solskjær’s preferred XI to Dean Henderson who started ten of United’s last-twelve Premier League fixtures. But some, including United iconic pair Paul Scholes and Rio Ferdinand, still back De Gea to retain the number one shirt. Speaking with BT Sport Scholes stated “I think it’s the right call to go with the experience. I thought De Gea was left out of the team at the right time, I thought it was the time to give Henderson a chance. Has he taken that chance? I’m not sure he has. In the first couple of games, he looked nice and safe, nice and controlled, since then he’s looked a little bit shaky to me. David coming back in the team, I think he’s been excellent, you think of the Roma game away, he could have easily conceded five or six goals, but he was brilliant on the night.”
Whether or not Manchester United will continue to view David De Gea as their undisputed number one moving forward remains to be seen, but tonight could certainly end up being a final nail in the coffin.