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How Villarreal ignored Man Utd noise and timed Europa League glory to perfection

It was worth the wait for the Sr. Roig and the Yellow Submarine


They told us we couldn’t...actually, they didn’t even bother telling us that.

The very notion of Villarreal stifling Manchester United’s dangerous front line wasn’t even considered, let alone the idea of the Yellow Submarine ending Wednesday night by lifting their first trophy, a Europa League title.

Pundits spoke of how Marcus Rashford should ‘destroy’ Juan Foyth, of how Bruno Fernandes ‘can find space against any team in the world’ and how ‘Manchester United should win comfortably’.

But those of a yellow persuasion knew differently.

Anyone who has watched Villarreal in the last six months will know how Etienne Capoue has taken some of the most creative talents out of the game by sitting deep in midfield.

“My job was to (mark) Bruno Fernandes and not give him the opportunity to create,” Capoue said after the game.

He won Man of the Match for his efforts as Fernandes failed to create anything of note, even after trying to evade his frustrating Frenchman by moving into more advanced roles.

Foyth, meanwhile, won every key battle with Rashford, managing more tackles than anyone else on the pitch (six) despite missing the five games before the final through injury. Again, anyone who had watched the Argentine operate in that right-back role in the last six months will have known he was capable of managing Rashford, and indeed much more.

He did against Arsenal, and so did his teammates, managing a clean sheet in the second leg to progress to the final. That was despite being told Nicolas Pepe, Bukayo Saka and others would run riot against the Yellows defence.

Villarreal were always capable of pulling this off, especially with Unai Emery, who studied 17 games of United’s to craft this latest Europa League masterclass.

Unbelievable scenes followed the win, an outpouring of joy and relief after a stressful 120 minutes plus 22 penalties, not to mention the agonising second leg of the semi-final.

History made, and it showed in the streets of Vila-real as players celebrated with supporters, as Paul Torres raised the Europa League trophy to the smiles of his aunt and uncle on one of the apartment terraces.

Villarreal CF Celebration After Winning The UEFA Europa League
{Pau Torres lifts the Europa League trophy in the streets of Vila-real
Photo by M. J. Segovia / AFP7 via Getty Images

Tears aplenty and too much pride to put into words.

This has been coming. Villarreal have been close before, but with the likes of Torres and nine total cantera Groguets in the matchday squad for the final, it feels this was the perfect moment, the perfect timing for this club to finally add silverware to that empty cabinet.

Would you have it any other way?

A tinge of sadness there may be for the likes of Bruno Soriano and Santi Cazorla, but after images emerged of them celebrating on the Gdansk pitch with the current players, even that felt worth it to see the likes of Maria Gaspar, Manu Trigueros, Jaume Costa, Sergio Asenjo, Alfonso Pedraza, Gerard Moreno and many others to get their moment after representing the club so well for so long.

With Emery, the stars aligned. Because of Emery, Villarreal are now champions and the club has finally taken the next step after so much work since Fernando Roig’s revolutionary purchase of the club.

It’s richly deserved, too, Villarreal were the best performing team in this competition this season, and they are the best performing team in the history of this competition. But to get their hands on that glorious Europa League trophy, the Yellow Submarine once again had to defy the odds.

It took that innate belief that runs in the blood of this club to get the job done, to ignore the noise of being underdogs against the likes of Arsenal and Manchester United.

But while they told us we couldn’t, quietly we knew, this was ‘nuestro momento’. This was our moment, and my goodness are we going to enjoy it.