Manchester United's three best players in Europa League final loss

Manchester United lost the opportunity to win their first piece of silverware under Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, after a tricky final ended in a penalty shootout against Villareal.

Villareal made it difficult for United, with a deep defensive line that they struggled to break through, reminiscent of many league games this season.

The Spanish side took them all the way to a penalty shoot-out after a 1-1 draw in normal time, despite not offering much of an attacking threat during the game.

It ended in somewhat ludicrous scenes as every outfield player from both sides scored their penalty, leaving David De Gea as the final player on the pitch to take a penalty which he missed.

It was not a game that the side will want to remember but there were some stand out players on the night.

Here were the best three players from the game…

Photo by Adam Warzawa – Pool/Getty Images

Edinson Cavani

El Matador turned up tonight when, it total honesty, not all of United’s big players did.

Not only did he get the goal to get them back into the game, he set the example with his extraordinary work rate – winning the ball back in dangerous positions, racing back to his own goal to prevent attacks and chasing Villareal’s defenders like a madman.

For large parts of the game, he looked like the only United player that wanted to win the game.

And his goal was characteristic of the type of goals that have made his career, a true poacher’s goal.

Jumping on the opportunity of a loose ball in the box, Cavani pounced and assuredly struck the ball into the back of the net.

Chasing long balls and closing down defenders long into extra-time the 34-year-old showed why his contract has been extended for another season.

When United needed their big players to step up tonight, Cavani was there to get the goal and score a high-pressure penalty in the shootout

Photo by Chris Ricco – UEFA/UEFA via Getty Images

Paul Pogba

Dropped back into a more familiar role than the attacking left-midfield position he has recently occupied, Paul Pogba was given a big responsibility for a big game.

The expectations and reliance on Pogba are different to when Fred or McTominay play there – he has to provide more attacking options from deep while performing the same defensive duties.

And overall he did it well, tidying up in the middle of the pitch as well as playing through balls from deep to start attacking moves.

It is less of a glamour role for a glamour player, but United needed the extra option of Pogba’s vision and creativity against a deep defensive line that was difficult to move.

Ole will need to think hard this summer about how he plans to break teams down that setup defensively against United and Pogba as a link to Fernandes seems to be his strongest position.

Photo by Chris Ricco – UEFA/UEFA via Getty Images

Scott McTominay

After a fairly quiet first half, which included a long-distance shot that really should have been better, McTominay came flying out of the traps in the second half.

Bringing the type of energy you want from centre-midfielders in a final, which United were lacking in the first half, the Scotsman started throwing himself into challenges and making things happen.

This was typified by him winning the corner that led to Cavani’s goal with his usual levels of industriousness.

Driving the ball forward and finding himself in dangerous positions throughout the game, as well as making vital tackles at the other end, McTominay showed why he can be relied upon yet again in the big games, despite the disappointing result.

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A freelance journalist and life-long Manchester United fan, James will be focusing on match reports and club news. He is still recovering from that Robin Van Persie volley at Old Trafford.