Those were the prevailing opinions of former Old Trafford stars Rio Ferdinand, Paul Scholes and Owen Hargreaves, after United were beaten on penalties by Villarreal in the Europa League final in Gdansk.
The Spanish side led in the first half and ultimately prevailed 11-10 on penalties after Edinson Cavani’s equaliser had sent the game to extra time and spot kicks, leaving United now heading for more than four years since their last trophy.
Speaking on BT Sports after the game, the ex-England international trio were unanimous in their points of view that United have fallen short this season as a result of not winning silverware – and that Solskjaer was shown up on the night.
“Unai got it perfect on the tactics board. [Bruno] Fernandes was nullified, closed down at all times,” said Ferdinand.
“There’s space for Cavani, [Marcus] Rashford with their pace and movement but it wasn’t there today – you have to credit Unai for that. They got their tactics spot on. United weren’t good enough on the night. It’s a failure.”
Paul Scholes looked to the playing squad for the Red Devils and questioned whether enough of them felt the sting of losing out on silverware enough to keep up with the demands of the club, despite some evidence of progress during Solskjaer’s tenure.
“It’s a lot easier for [Villarreal], nobody is expecting them to create chances, score goals. It was United who should be doing that but they are always much better on the counter-attack and away from home,” he noted.
“Rashford didnt have his best night. They weren’t very good tonight but overall there has been progress.
“Does it hurt them enough? They’ve lost games [recently], does it really hurt? It’s almost become an accepted thing. Even from the manager sometimes it looks acceptable. United have almost become a nice club.”
Owen Hargreaves agreed with the main line of the campaign being largely a disappointment all told.
“If they win the Europa League they’ve had a heck of a season but losing this changes that. It’s a tough blow for United,” he said.
Forward Rashford spoke after the game to BT and acknowledged that finishing second in the league and the final “doesn’t mean anything” for United, though noted the gap to rivals Manchester City had closed somewhat.
Scholes, however, disagreed and feels the gap remains bigger than the Premier League points tallies suggest.
“When he [Rashford] says they’re close, are they really that close?
“Beaten in a Europa League final by Villarreal; finished second, 14pts behind City.
“It doesn’t feel like it’s close to me.”