Later News May 27

Solskjaer defends late substitutions as Man United’s Europa final loss leaves them empty-handed

The jury is still out on whether Ole Gunnar Solskjaer is a good fit for Manchester United, after the Norwegian failed – yet again – to lead the Red Devils to a trophy this season.


This comes after United lost to Unai Emery’s Villarreal in the Europa League final this morning (SGT).


The Spanish side, who knocked out Arsenal in the semi-finals (much to the mirth of United fans then), took the lead in the 29th minute through Gerard Moreno. But United responded 10 minutes after the break through purple EZ-link card holder Edinson Cavani.


With neither side able to score another to put sleep-deprived football fans in this region out of their misery, the match went into extra time, before heading to the dreaded penalty shootout.


In a stunning display of icy-cool nerves and emphatic spot-kicks, mixed with a sprinkle of sh*tty shot-stopping, the shootout went all the way to the goalkeepers themselves.


Gerónimo Rulli made no mistake with his spot-kick, but David De Gea – all £350,000 (S$655,000) a week of him – contrived to miss his, sending both the Villarreal and Liverpool fans into raptures.


WATCH: Villarreal celebrate Europa League triumph


It has now been four years since Solskjaer took over as United manager, but he has yet to win silverware with the club. Gleeful Liverpool supporters will point to the ‘January Cup’ – sarcastically awarded to the Old Trafford outfit for being top of the Premier League at the start of said month – as proof that Solskjaer is the right man for the club, but heartbroken United fans remain undecided over whether it’s #Oleatthewheel or #Oleout.


Solskjaer’s detractors will point to his failure to make changes earlier in the game – United’s first substitution came in the 100th minute, when Fred came on for Mason Greenwood – as evidence that he is just making it up as he goes along.


United went on to make four more substitutions late on, as Daniel James, Axel Tuanzebe, Alex Telles and Juan Mata came on for Paul Pogba, Eric Bailly, Scott McTominay and Aaron Wan-Bissaka respectively.


Somewhat surprisingly as well, Solskjaer opted not to bring on Dean Henderson, who has saved eight of the 19 penalties he has faced in his career so far. Instead, he decided to keep his faith in De Gea, who hasn’t saved a single spot-kick since April 2016.


WATCH: Solskjaer explains De Gea decision


After the game, however, Solskjaer defended his substitution strategy, as he said: “We felt the players out there - you've got Mason and Marcus, matchwinners in their own right. Bruno, Edison, can create anything, Scott I felt was the best player on the pitch, as well as Paul.


“It's difficult to make that change, especially when Fred has been injured for a week, but he came on and did well. We just couldn't create enough chances to win the game.


"You've got players with high quality there. We started with loads of golascorers, matchwinners and we hoped that was going to give us the upper hand. We just couldn't get the first goal.”


Solskjaer also admitted that he had considered bringing on Henderson, but ultimately decided against it.


“You go through every scenario, of course, and it had crossed my mind in the build up to the game,” Solskjaer revealed. “But we were confident in David and we had prepared, but anything can happen in penalty shootouts.”


Despite having shown progress with United in the EPL, taking them to second in the table ahead of big spending Chelsea and last year’s champions Liverpool, Solskjaer concedes that this season cannot be considered a success without a trophy.


WATCH: Solskjaer declares United's season "not a success"


“It's not a successful season of course,” Solskjaer said. “Sometimes one kick defines a season as a good one and sometimes a kick defines it's not. Nobody expected us to finish second in the league but the boys came up just short tonight unfortunately.


“Trophies matter and that's what matters at this club so no it's not a successful season. It's the short answer.”


So, United fans - should Solskjaer stay or go?




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