Ole Gunnar Solskjaer says now is the time to be strong and “learn from failure” after the agonising Europa League penalty shootout defeat against Villarreal extended Manchester United’s wait for a trophy.
Having won the competition in 2017 under Jose Mourinho, the Red Devils were favourites to claim their first silverware since then when taking on the LaLiga side in the Polish port of Gdansk.
But Solskjaer’s men never got going against the European final debutants, who went into half-time ahead after Gerard Moreno turned home a free-kick as United’s soft underbelly from set-pieces was exposed once again.
Edinson Cavani levelled during a bright start to the second half, but that soon petered out and the match ended 1-1 after extra time with David De Gea’s saved spot-kick seeing Villarreal triumph 11-10.
“I always believe in our players and I thought we did what we needed to and pushed on for about five to 10 minutes after equalising,” Solskjaer said.
“But then when the goal didn’t come on, we couldn’t kick onto the next level.
“To be honest, I felt we probably more and more dropped off as the game wore on.
“Of course it’s very, very disappointing. It’s hard, there’s loads of disappointment in the dressing room but in a penalty shootout anything can happen.
“I thought the penalties were really of a high standard so can’t fault the focus.”
Asked about the hurt of such a challenging campaign ending like this, Solskjaer said: “You’ve got to be strong.
“You’ve got to learn from failure, learn from these disappointments because it’s a lesson.
“It’s a lesson that we’re still not where we want to be, still not at the quality we want to be.
“We go away now – some in the Euros, some have holidays.
“The one thing that’s definite is that everyone has to come back with a desire to improve.
“I’m sure that they’ll have this feeling for a couple of days and then come back stronger.”
The Red Devils have improved from last season in terms of Premier League placing, while they went one step further in the Europa League.