Man United have suffered against Villarreal since rejecting Diego Forlan transfer clause in 2004

  • Rob Swan

Manchester United endured a disappointing and frustrating evening in Gdansk as they suffered defeat to Villarreal in the Europa League final.

With nothing to separate the two sides after 120 minutes, the match was eventually decided on penalties.

David de Gea failed to stop any of Villarreal’s 11 penalties. United’s goalkeeper then stepped up and watched in horror as his spot-kick was saved by his opposite number, Geronimo Rulli.

Villarreal, managed by former Arsenal boss Unai Emery, were left celebrating their first major European title.

United’s players, meanwhile, were left crestfallen at the final whistle. They knew this was a huge missed opportunity.

Villarreal is a small town in the east of Spain with a population of around 50,000 people. Their football club have punched well above their weight for the past 20 years and now have a Europa League trophy to show for their efforts.


The La Liga outfit have signed a couple of players from United down the years including Giuseppe Rossi and Diego Forlan.

Eric Bailly, meanwhile, moved in the opposite direction in 2016.

Man Utd refused Villarreal friendly request in 2004

However, Villarreal have frustrated Man Utd on the pitch ever since the first of those deals back in the summer of 2004.

After two disappointing seasons with the Red Devils, Forlan was offloaded to Villarreal by Sir Alex Ferguson.

Per The Guardian’s Sid Lowe, Villarreal asked United to come and play a friendly at El Madrigal as part of the deal.

United, however, refused the request.


“Don’t worry,” the club’s president said, “they’ll come - and for free.”

And that’s precisely what happened.

Man Utd's record vs Villarreal

Villarreal hosted Man Utd at El Madrigal in September 2005 and held their star-studded opponents to a 0-0 draw in the Champions League group stages.


They then played out another 0-0 draw at Old Trafford in November 2005.

United ended up finishing bottom of Group D - utter humiliation for the Premier League giants at the time - while Villarreal marched on to the Champions League semi-finals.

The two clubs then met again during the 2008-09 Champions League group stages.

Once again, another two 0-0 draws followed.


Although United finally managed to hit the back of the net against the Spanish club in Gdansk at the fifth time of asking, thanks to Edinson Cavani's equaliser, it was still a hugely frustrating night for the English side.

Are the Red Devils cursed following their decision to snub Villarreal’s friendly request?

Whatever the explanation, United will be hoping to avoid the newly-crowned Europa League winners in next season’s Champions League group stage.

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