Manchester United lost the Europa League 11-10 on penalties as David de Gea missed the only penalty to let Villarreal win the first trophy in their history.
This was a disappointing contest lacking in quality and producing only three shots on target across 120 minutes – but drama arrived with the spot-kicks.
All 20 outfield players converted their penalties in the longest shootout in a final of any Uefa competition, and in an increasingly tense stadium Villarreal goalkeeper Geronimo Rulli blasted home his effort and then denied De Gea, who was crestfallen at the end.
It gave Villarreal a first major trophy in their history and saw former Arsenal boss Unai Emery lift the Europa League for an unprecedented fourth time.
However, on the anniversary of both Sir Matt Busby’s birth and the epic Champions League final in 1999 that earned Ole Gunnar Solskjaer hero status among the Old Trafford faithful, there was to be no new 26 May landmark as United complete a fourth year without silverware.
United simply did not do enough, despite the massive gulf in transfer fees and salaries between the two clubs.
Solskjaer’s side did not start well and fell behind to a soft goal from Gerard Moreno.
Edinson Cavani dragged United level 10 minutes into the second period after a Marcus Rashford shot had been deflected into his path, but United failed to build on that momentum and by the end Solskjaer was introducing Juan Mata and Alex Telles purely to take penalties in the shootout.
Three players came on purely for the penalties and all scored, including Alex Telles and Dani Raba – who did not have a touch before the shootout.
Neil Lennon said: “There will a massive inquest at Manchester United now. There will be a lot of questions to answer. It should never have got to the point where your goalkeeper needs to keep you in a penalty shootout.”
Villarreal’s ex-Arsenal midfielder Francis Coquelin said: “A penalty shootout is a lottery and we managed to win it.
“It was a fairytale of the competition. To beat them in the final is something special.”
United boss Ole Gunnar Solskjaer told BT Sport: “We’re getting closer and closer and better. We were one kick away from a trophy and a good night.”
Striker Marcus Rashford said: “Villarreal won the Europa League, we finished second. For us it’s nothing. I don’t want to here ‘they were so close’ because it means nothing. One winner, one loser.”