PICTURED: The penalty ‘cheat sheet’ David de Gea hid inside his towel for Villarreal’s shoot-out spot-kicks… but the Manchester United goalkeeper abandoned his plans at sudden death – and it soon proved costly
- There was heartbreak for Manchester United as they lost the Europa League final
- After the teams couldn’t be separated, Villarreal beat United 11-10 on penalties
- David de Gea missed the spot-kick that consigned United to the chastening loss
- But had De Gea followed instructions in goal, United may have reigned supreme
There was heartbreak for Manchester United and David de Gea after their Europa League final loss to Villarreal but had the goalkeeper followed instructions during the penalty shoot-out, perhaps his side would have reigned supreme.
Edinson Cavani had hauled United level in the second half after Gerard Moreno put Villarreal ahead in the 29th minute, but the Red Devils failed to grasp the momentum and after the two teams couldn’t be separated – the European final went to penalties.
Villarreal, who finished seventh in LaLiga, went onto stun United by winning 11-10 on penalties, with goalkeeper De Gea’s missing spot-kick consigning his side to defeat.
REVEALED: The penalty notes that David de Gea was given prior to the shoot-out in Gdansk
De Gea couldn’t save any of Villarreal’s 11 penalties during the Europa League final shootout
But it wasn’t from the spot where he was meant to come up trumps for United. And De Gea will be more upset by the fact that he didn’t save a single one of Villarreal’s 11 penalties.
And now it has emerged that after talking to goalkeeping coaches Richard Hartis and Craig Mawson, De Gea had been handed a note to put inside his towel which gave an indication of which way each opposition penalty taker would go – which was revealed by Sky Sport journalist Angelo Mangiante.
And going off the note, the experienced Spanish goalkeeper ignored the crucial instructions of the Villarreal penalty takers on three different occasions during sudden death.
Moreno, Villarreal’s scorer in normal time, stepped up first and slotted home but De Gea had no guidance as to which side the Spanish striker would place the ball.
He then followed the exact instructions for the next four penalties but when the shoot-out reached sudden death, De Gea abandoned the advice given to him.
De Gea dived to his left when Moi Gomez struck down the middle for Villarreal’s sixth penalty
Villarreal’s sixth penalty taker, Moi Gomez, stepped up and De Gea was told that he likes to strike down the middle.
But De Gea instead decided to dive to his left as Gomez rolled home into the middle of the net.
Had De Gea followed his notes and stayed tall in the middle of the goal, United would likely have clinched Europa League glory after Fred put away the next spot-kick.
De Gea stayed true to the action plan when Raul Albiol stepped up but Villarreal’s veteran defender in fact went the other way.
But then he decided to ignore the instructions for Francis Coquelin’s penalty. However, it wouldn’t have made a difference as the former Arsenal midfielder struck bravely into the roof of the net to De Gea’s left.
De Gea abandoned instructions on three occasions in Gdansk on Wednesday evening
And then with the shootout rumbling on and with the nerves becoming more and more excruciating, De Gea ignored his penalty notes for a third time when Pau Torres struck high into the net. But on this occasion, his decision almost paid off as he got close to the effort.
And then it was the turn of the goalkeepers, and after Villarreal’s Geronimo Rulli – who there were no instructions for – smashed home, the pressure was on De Gea to keep United’s Europa League hopes alive.
However, the 30-year-old’s effort was well saved by his Villarreal counterpart, who dived down low to his left to clinch the European triumph for his side.
It was a harrowing night for United and De Gea, who has now failed to save any of his last 36 penalties he has faced.
And after the final whistle, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer revealed he did in fact consider replacing De Gea with Dean Henderson before the penalty shootout.
Geronimo Rulli saves De Gea’s spot-kick which clinched Europa League glory for Villarreal
The United keeper has not saved a penalty for five years, his last coming against Everton in the 2016 FA Cup final, while Henderson has a considerably better record.
Henderson thwarted Manchester City striker Gabriel Jesus from 12 yards while on loan at Sheffield United last season and has also in the past made key saves in the 2019 Under-21 European Championship and the 2018 League One Play-off final.
Solskjaer admitted: ‘You go through every scenario, of course, and it [De Gea’s penalty record] had crossed my mind in the build-up to the game but we were confident in David and prepared.
‘Anything can happen in a penalty shootout. I stuck with the keeper who played all of the game.
‘I’ve got to say the penalty shootout was high quality, but we didn’t do enough in the 120 minutes to score more goals and that’s the disappointing bit.
‘We had pressure, we had moments where we felt if we can just kick on a little bit now we can get a goal. But we just couldn’t.’
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer said he considered replacing De Gea with Dean Henderson for penalties
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