Gerard Moreno had put Villarreal ahead before Edinson Cavani pulled United level but the Premier League heavyweights could not score a winner and managed just two shots on target across the next 35 minutes of normal time and 30 minutes of extra time.
A dramatic penalty shootout saw 21 of 20 penalties scored with Geronimo Rulli completing the set for Villarreal as they despatched every spot-kick.
David de Gea then stepped up but saw his 12-yard effort saved by Rulli as Villarreal won the Europa League for the first time, manager Unai Emery for the fourth time, and extended United’s trophyless run to a fourth successive season.
United were favourites against the Spaniards having finished second in the Premier League table and an emotional Rashford post-match admitted it was not good enough for a club of their standards and expectations.
Yet the 23-year-old academy graduate – who reported over 70 instances of racist abuse post-match on social media – insists United will bounce back next term as they look to provide a sterner challenge to English champions Manchester City, whom they finished 12 points behind, and challenge in the Champions League.
“We’ve been working so hard all season and this was the opportunity to win a trophy and it didn’t happen for whatever reasons.
“We have to get rid of the disappointment and after that look back at the game and see what we did wrong, where we can improve. The team will not give up – there’s no chance the team gives up. The manager won’t allow us to give up.
“We will come next season with a bigger desire. The club, Manchester United. People say a lot about Manchester United, ‘They’re going downhill’, blah, blah, blah, blah.
“But for me, the club, the desire, the hunger, the talent, the ability, the squad, we have everything to compete at the highest level.
“We just have to show it to the world and ourselves, show why we belong in the top places and why we belong in finals like this and why we need to be winning finals like this.
“In the league we finished second. Second doesn’t count for nothing. Manchester City win the league, we finished second. It doesn’t mean nothing. Villarreal won the Europa League, we finished second.
“To win big trophies you have to show sacrifice,” he added. “I could walk you into the dressing room and show you five, six, seven players – and me as well – who have had injuries here and here from September, the beginning of the season.
“We all stay together as a unit and fight to be successful for the club. This year it didn’t happen. Next year, we have to go away and clear our heads.
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“When we come back we start fresh. When Ole came in there was a process. We believe in the process. This isn’t the end of the process. Part of the process is having ups and downs.
“Just because we lose today I promise the fans we don’t give up, there’s no chance we give up. We will come back next season with more desire and hunger. We have to do our best on the pitch and give 110 per cent.
Rashford was disappointing on the night against Villarreal but has been nursing a foot injury for the past few weeks. Asked if he would be fit for the upcoming Euros with England, he declared: “Forget about the foot for now. The disappointment of today, I don’t feel the foot.”
The international tournament gets underway on June 11 with Rashford and team-mates Harry Maguire, Dean Henderson, Luke Shaw, Mason Greenwood and Jesse Lingard all called up for Gareth Southgate’s provisional 33-man squad.
Rashford meanwhile later tweeted: “At least 70 racial slurs on my social accounts counted so far. For those working to make me feel any worse than I already do, good luck trying.
“I’m more outraged that one of the abusers that left a mountain of monkey emojis in my DM is a maths teacher with an open profile. He teaches children!! And knows that he can freely racially abuse without consequence…”
Express Sport is determined to support the fight against hate and discrimination online. Read more about the Hope United campaign created by BT Sport to combat online hate in which Rashford is heavily involved here.
This post originally appeared on Daily Express :: Sport Feed