Villarreal triumph not about revenge but brings redemption for Unai Emery after Arsenal sacking

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 (POOL/AFP via Getty Images)
(POOL/AFP via Getty Images)

Unai Emery insists Villarreal beating Manchester United was not a case of him getting revenge for his Europa League final defeat with Arsenal - but nonetheless this victory must have tasted sweet for the Spaniard.

After his Villarreal side defeated United 11-10 on penalties, with goalkeeper David de Gea the only player to miss, Emery was mobbed by his players and staff.

They grouped together and threw the Spaniard into the air, cheering his name and celebrating the fact he had guided them to European glory.

Witnessing such scenes it was impossible not to remember Emery’s last Europa League final, with Arsenal against Chelsea in Baku back in 2019.

On that occasion, Emery cut a disconsolate figure after watching his side lose 4-1 to their London rivals. Six months later, the Spaniard was sacked.

“When I was at Arsenal we played a Europa League final and could not win but it is a process, from that game I learned a lot to win this one maybe,” he said.

“I insist this is not a sports revenge at all. I try to enjoy every moment, winning and losing.

“I try to create new circumstances, so everywhere I have been, even in England at Arsenal, I have learned a lot, met many people, other cultures and football.

“At the end of that story was professional frustration, but some other doors opened then. Winning today is a satisfaction, but for my club today, as it was when I was at Sevilla.”

Emery deserves plenty of credit for the way he has rebuilt his career since being sacked by the Gunners in November 2019.

 (POOL/AFP via Getty Images)
(POOL/AFP via Getty Images)

Before he arrived at the Emirates he was revered as the master of the Europa League after winning it three times in a row with Sevilla, but that tag was damaged after losing to Chelsea in 2019.

Emery restored it last night, however, by overcoming United in a manner that typified the spirit he has installed at Villarreal.

The players there have fully bought into his methods, so much so that on occasions they have been coming into training at the crack of dawn to prepare for games.

“In the Europa League we have been absolutely impeccable,” said Emery.

“Some days we were coming at 6am to the stadium to prepare a game for the Sunday. All of this makes the journey [worthwhile].”

The unity Emery has installed among his players was clear to see last night as they rallied together to topple Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s side.

Villarreal spent large parts of the game without the ball and defending in numbers, but they almost seemed to relish the task.

Captain Raul Albiol, in the heart of defence, might be 35 but he played like someone 10 years younger as he threw himself about. Alongside him, 24-year-old Pau Torres marshalled the game like a veteran and someone who is surely destined for a big move this summer.

They weren’t the only ones, though, that were ready to suffer for the cause. Even star striker Gerard Moreno, who scored the opening goal, was prepared to spend 120 minutes chasing lost balls and pressing the United defence.

Behind him the likes of Etienne Capoue kept Bruno Fernandes quiet to ensure Villarreal secured a famous victory.

It was a famous win for Emery too, even if it was not about gaining revenge.

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