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In the top all of it got here right down to this: goalkeeper towards goalkeeper, winner takes all. For greater than two hours Manchester United and Villarreal had circled one another like staggering boxers: drained limbs throwing drained punches and working by means of thick mud. The 61st recreation of Manchester United’s season and the 57th recreation of Villarreal’s unfolded in a way we must always most likely have predicted. However as of 12.54am in Gdansk, as David de Gea stood over his fateful kick, all potentialities remained ridiculously open.
It was a recreation by which United started as favourites, went into half-time as underdogs, appeared to have it within the bag by the hour and ended up shedding in flabbergasting circumstances. In some ways it was a night that summed up their season: oscillating wildly between excessive competence and excessive lethargy, generally in the identical recreation, sometimes even in the identical assault. By the top, it felt as if United had been grateful merely to nonetheless be there. For Ole Gunnar Solskjær’s crew, the means justified the soul-crushing finish.