Manchester United

Europa League heartbreak proves Man Utd can't keep relying on star forwards to constantly bail out dodgy defending

Ross Jackson
Edinson Cavani celebrates his equaliser with Scott McTominay
Edinson Cavani celebrates his equaliser with Scott McTominay / Adam Warzawa - Pool/Getty Images

'Pretty football' is overrated.

All these sexy triangles and messing about with the ball in your own half is rubbish really, it's just no-one dares to admit it.

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer was put through the ringer once again
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer was put through the ringer once again / Adam Warzawa - Pool/Getty Images

Proper football is watching a team with the Chuckle Brothers at centre-back who are utterly incapable of keeping a clean sheet, but with a forward line with the ability to tear apart any defence on the planet.

Step forward, Manchester United.

We'd be underselling it a little if we said Ole Gunnar Solskjaer's men had 'made a habit' of falling behind in games before streaming forward and ultimately ending the game victorious.

The Red Devils have done it countless times this season, and while football hipsters will look to pick holes in their performances and claim they should be tighter defensively or their supporters will argue they show great character to bounce back time and time again, we aren't really bothered - it's fun and that's all that matters, right?

Well, it is if you're not bothered whether they win anything or not.

Cavani was left wondering 'what if'
Cavani was left wondering 'what if' / ALEKSANDRA SZMIGIEL/Getty Images

Solskjaer's side looked firm favourites heading into their Europa League final with Villarreal on Wednesday evening, as La Liga's seventh-placed side took on the Premier League runners-up.

The embarrassment of riches at Solskjaer's disposal compared to Unai Emery's meant surely they weren't going to make this one difficult for themselves as well? Of course they were.

Victor Lindelof's trademark 'watching the man run past you without doing anything about it' struck in the first half as Gerard Moreno tapped home Dani Parejo's floated free kick, and from the moment the ball had hit the back of the net Emery was demanding his charges get back into position.

Two solid banks of four - sometimes with the backline turning into a bank of six - soon emerged in front of United, and though Marcus Rashford and Mason Greenwood looked lively at times, there seemed to be no way through the Yellow Submarine barrier.

As he so often has done this season, Edinson Cavani looked like being the hero of the hour as United finally found their way through Emery's side's rigid backline, and with United back on level terms it was all feeling a bit déjà vu.

We know what happens from here, right? The floodgates open as the opposition look to come out from their shell a little more and United end up winning about 6-2 with Cavani bagging a hat-trick.

And then Emery called for Francis Coquelin? This wasn't supposed to happen, he was meant to bring on a striker so Solskjaer's side could tear them apart.

The move proved to be a piece of tactical genius as Villarreal sat even deeper and frustrated United, ultimately clawing their way to penalties where they eventually triumphed after each side had taken 391 penalties each.

Villarreal celebrate their win
Villarreal celebrate their win / ADAM WARZAWA/Getty Images

If this isn't a wakeup call to United then we're not sure what it's going to take. Yes, football is fun when all of your games have 17 goals in them, but is going a goal behind almost every game really going to bring trophies back to Old Trafford?

Any Newcastle fan from the mid 90s will tell you that style of football isn't sustainable and it ultimately ends in tears, and that's exactly what's happened with the Red Devils this season. One of their best campaigns for a while and they're still left empty handed.

We love funny, attacking, mental football as neutrals, but if Solskjaer wants to win things at Old Trafford he can't afford to keep asking his forwards to bail him out.