Paul Merson told Sky Sports: "Ole Gunnar Solskjaer got embarrassed really. Villarreal looked the better team in extra time and Solskjaer just didn't react. He just didn't change it up and they paid the price in the end."
Thursday 27 May 2021 20:05, UK
Paul Merson says Ole Gunnar Solskjaer got embarrassed as Manchester United succumbed to a penalty shootout defeat to Unai Emery's Villarreal in the Europa League final.
David de Gea's missed penalty consigned United to a dramatic 11-10 penalty shootout defeat following a 1-1 draw in Gdansk as Solskjaer's quest for a first trophy as Man Utd manager goes on.
And Merson, speaking to skysports.com, gave his verdict on what was a difficult night for Solskjaer and what the future may hold for Manchester United after a disappointing night...
It was really disappointing for Manchester United on Wednesday night. Actually, I thought it was shocking, if I'm being honest.
I watched the game and even after extra time, 120 minutes off football, neither goalkeeper had to make a save.
Arsenal got crucified for this a few weeks ago and they actually had better chances to beat Villarreal.
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer got embarrassed really. Villarreal made the five substitutions and it was really clever from Unai Emery. They had the fresher legs in extra time, and they didn't really look like losing.
They looked the better team and Solskjaer just didn't react. He just didn't change it up and they paid the price in the end.
Villarreal have got no legs in their team. They were playing for one thing only, in my opinion, and that was penalties, but Solskjaer brings on Fred and leaves Donny van de Beek on the touchline. Why is that? Is it because it's the easy thing to do.
Fred's played a lot of games this season and does Solskjaer think he's got to bring him on to be fair? And he doesn't think he's got to put Van de Beek on because he's hardly played?
It just all seems too friendly to me. It seems like he doesn't want to upset anyone. Everyone is waiting for someone else to do something.
Marcus Rashford just had one of those games last night. We've all had them and even the best players in the world have had them. Sooner or later, as a manager, you've got to realise it is just one of those games for him and that it just wasn't happening. Everything he tried just didn't come off. I can't remember him doing anything in the game that was any good.
Looking on, it looked like Solskjaer didn't want to bring him off in case it upset him.
"How you can have a goalkeeper in goal for a penalty shootout that hasn’t saved a penalty in the Premier League in six-and-half years?
"De Gea never got close to one. He didn’t even dive like he was going to save a penalty. He dived at one and I don’t think the lad had even turned around to take the penalty!
"I’ve never seen anything like it."
You've got to look at the all-round picture here. How can Manchester United win the league?
Villarreal brought on five players, just before the 90 minutes were up and you'd have never known that they were any less good than the ones that started the game. If you'd have started watching the game in extra time, you'd have just thought it was their team.
But you look at Manchester United, everyone they bring on weakens the team.
Manchester United are a million miles off. Everyone says they've cut the gap to Man City down to 12 points from 33 points, but what difference does it make? It could be 60 points but if you don't win the league, what difference does it make?
People also say about having a better season this year because they got more points but some of these teams finished five places lower this year. It doesn't work like that. I'd rather have 10 less points and win the league than 25 points more and come second.
I would be more shocked if they won the league than Liverpool next season. I'd be blown away if they won the league. People get carried away with stats and points. United are a million miles away, and that was shown on Wednesday.
Villarreal are an average team. They finished seventh in La Liga. We saw what Chelsea did to Real Madrid, who came second in the league. Chelsea dismantled them. We saw what Chelsea did to Atletico Madrid, who won the league. They dismantled them.
It's an average team and Manchester United couldn't put them away. For all the play they had, they didn't even look like putting them away.
We examine the plans and priorities for Manchester United in the summer transfer window after another season of progression under Ole Gunnar Solskjaer.
Personally, I don't think two to three players in this summer is enough for United. It's going to take much more than that to get them winning silverware because I just don't think they are as close as people say.
I think they flatter to deceive.
Bringing in Harry Kane would make a difference, of course it would. There's no doubt about it but let's be honest, Edinson Cavani doesn't let anybody down. It's not like we are sitting here and thinking Cavani's not good enough. I just don't think Cavani would be able to do it over 38 games at his age.
Their best midfield player is Scott McTominay. He was Manchester United's best midfield player in the Europa League final by a country mile. Paul Pogba's on the ball, strolling around and eventually losing the ball.
People will say Cavani gave away the free kick for Villarreal's goal, but he only gave away the free kick because Pogba's tried a cross field ball that's smacked into a player and bounced down, and Cavani's had to try and win it. How many times did Pogba give the ball away from what should have been a simple pass? Too many.
McTominay is their best midfield player and no disrespect to him because he's a work horse and he's doing really well, but does he play for Chelsea? Absolutely not. Does he play for Liverpool? Absolutely not. Does he play for Man City? Absolutely not.
I'm not picking on him because as I've said, he's doing really well, but just using him as an example.
If you want to win anything, you've got to have a good midfield. You have to dominate games.
They haven't won the league for eight years now and that can easily turn into nine next year. It's turning into a bit of a worry for United.
It's a hard one because Solskjaer is great for the club. He's nice.
Could you imagine Roy Keane as manager at Old Trafford and the board saying we're not going to buy anyone this year? He would go mad. He would kick up a stink and that is what a top manager would do.
But with Solskjaer, I don't see that happening. He's happy to work with what he's got. He's grateful to be there.
Manchester United's wait for silverware goes on and their Europa League final defeat leaves Ole Gunnar Solskjaer facing familiar questions.
This is Manchester United. For me, the top club in the world.
Straight away, when you are playing a football match at one of the top clubs in the world, you kick off and everyone sits 10 behind the ball. That's the way it works, and it has always worked like that and always will.
But, if you look at United's record, the only time they beat anyone is if teams have a go at them. If a team doesn't have a go at them, they don't beat anyone. How does that work? They are supposed to be one of the top teams in the country and if anyone sits 10 behind the ball against them, they struggle.
It's a real worry for United and something they need to ponder long and hard this summer.