THURSDAY’S BIG STORIES

A shootout for the ages

You know that Spider-Man meme, both the Spider-Mans pointing at each other? It’s like that but with everybody ... all the different Spider-Mans are pointing at each other saying ‘you’re responsible’...
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You could have somebody pointing the finger at David de Gea for missing the crucial penalty in an exhaustingly engrossing penalty shootout. He could then point the finger at his outfield players for a drab 120 minutes where they hardly outplayed their opponents. They could then point the finger at Ole Gunnar Solskjaer for not making the right changes at the right time, or any changes at all in normal time. And then Solskjaer could point the blame right back at any of his players - except the new signings he left on the bench next to a how-injured-is-he-can-you-let-Southgate-know-please Harry Maguire.
It essentially means they’re all responsible, but all that means another thing – the other team were nothing short of fantastic.
Villarreal. What a moment for the Spanish side. Viewers in the UK were told by Paul Scholes ahead of kick-off that United should win this Europa League final “comfortably” given it was second in the Premier League taking on seventh in La Liga. Did he miss the semi-final? Yes that was against eighth in the Premier League Arsenal, but it was an Unai Emery masterclass which sought to stifle the opposition and get the job done against all the odds.
That was the case again on Wednesday night. Bruno Fernandes barely got a second on the ball and the closest he came to scoring was when he held the ball in hope of taking a penalty when Mason Greenwood hit the deck.
The fickle nature of a shootout means we’re left criticising United when it could so easily have gone the other way, but while De Gea may have proved ineffective when it mattered it is not fair to blame the man who has carried this team through its darkest periods of the post-Fergie era.
The man who will face the most flack is Solskjaer, and there will be some unwanted conversations on the morning after a painful night which left the club trophyless for a fourth straight season.
"We didn't turn up," Solskjaer told BT Sport.
"Now isn't the time to put the finger on what I would have done differently but when you don't come away with the trophy you've not done everything right.
We are getting closer and closer [to winning titles] we were one kick away today from having a trophy. But we've got to have the desire to come back next year and improve. The only way to get the margins in your side is to work harder and better.

Antonio Gone-te

Antonio Conte is no stranger to lifting silverware as a cloud hangs over his future. He won the FA Cup at Chelsea three years ago in what proved to be his last match in charge for the club, and now the Italian has left Inter just days after steering them to a first Serie A title since 2010.
It was all about approach and transfers, apparently, as they look to defend their title and reach the Champions League knockout stages for the first time since 2012 – but Conte will be having none of it.
His departure could spark an intriguing tussle for the Real Madrid job should Zinedine Zidane, as is expected, leave the role, with Max Allegri having bided his time since leaving Juve in 2019.
Perhaps the two managers should arm-wrestle for the Real role – loser gets the Tottenham gig.

Zidane gone today?

A Comunicado Oficial is on the way, or so it seems, as Zidane could well leave Real today according to guru Fabrizio Romano.
The Frenchman’s exit would open up the most difficult of managerial roles in a summer where vacancies are opening by the minute.
Jobs going at Real, Inter, Tottenham, Napoli and Lille could go on to spark the mightiest of merry-go-rounds if other managers depart from elsewhere, while it still remains unclear whether Ronald Koeman will be in charge of Barcelona next season.
Real fans will expect nothing but the best, but would Conte really enjoy working under Florentino Perez after leaving Inter due to a fallout with the owners?
Probably not, and so for that reason alone it’s an appointment worth making.

IN OTHER NEWS

A torrent of racial abuse for Rashford

“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,” Marcus Rashford said on Twitter last night.
Same ****, different day - the cycle of abuse rumbles on, and social media companies will likely post the usual responses. It’s tiring to witness, so just imagine how these players feel. Sigh.

IN THE CHANNELS

Back to brighter news, it’s worth a nod to the biggest night in Villarreal’s history, and some great scenes in Gdansk.
And it was all yellow…

RETRO CORNER

‘Tis the season for cup anniversaries, but today we’re wishing a happy 54th birthday to Paul Gascoigne. And as we count down the days to Euro 2020, let’s remember just how good Gazza was with two minutes of his Euro 1996 best bits.
One of England’s most gifted players ever. Period.

COMING UP

It’s a relative calm couple of days ahead before Saturday brings us the Championship play-off and Champions League finals. If you’re after something to watch tonight, Nantes meet Toulouse in the first leg of the promotion-relegation play-off over in France. Nantes finished 18th in Ligue 1 while Toulouse were third in Ligue 2. Game on.
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