Manchester United were outsmarted by the genius tactics of former Arsenal boss Unai Emery on Wednesday at Villarreal were crowned Europa League winners for the first time in their history.
The Yellow Submarine went into the game as underdogs following a seventh placed finish in La Liga, with Ole Gunnar Solskjaer going out to win his first trophy as Red Devils boss.
Following a tactical encounter in which Gerard Moreno and Edinson Cavani grabbed a goal for each side, a dramatic penalty shootout finished 11-10 with only David de Gea missing.
Rio Ferdinand has now given his thoughts to BT Sport, and he noted the ways in which Emery’s side got the upper hand rather than United’s shortcomings in extra-time.
He said: “Manchester United have relied on individuals throughout the season to come up with the trump cards, in critical moments in the games. Bruno has been the man they’ve leaned on, Cavani, Mason Greenwood sometimes, Marcus Rashford, but today they never came up with the goods.
“In the final third, they didn’t take enough chances, they didn’t risk enough, the imagination wasn’t there, the creativity today. It’s not been too many occasions where you can say that, that one of them hasn’t stepped up and produced.
“They had a spell after Cavani scored and you thought they had the momentum and were going to go on and take the game by the scruff of the neck, but they didn’t.”
Adding of Emery: “Tactically I think Unai Emery got it spot on. Cavani thrives with space behind defenders, but they didn’t allow space behind today at all. Bruno was nullified, closed down at all times.
“There was no space for people like Mason Greenwood, Marcus Rashford to get in behind with their movement and anticipation. It was never there today.
“You have to give credit to Unai Emery for that, because tactically he got it spot on.”
Paul Scholes had said of Villarreal before the game: “You’re playing Villarreal here.
“You’re playing a team that finished 7th in a really poor La Liga. Think of Real Madrid and Barcelona, how bad have they been? Manchester United should win this game comfortably.”
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