Manchester United can use the Liverpool FC blueprint to recover from Europa League final defeat

Man Utd suffered a heartbreaking penalty shoot-out defeat to Villarreal in the Europa League final, but they can use that setback to reach g...

Man Utd suffered a heartbreaking penalty shoot-out defeat to Villarreal in the Europa League final, but they can use that setback to reach greater heights.

If Manchester United want inspiration for how an unexpected Europa League final defeat to a team coached by Unai Emery can be the start of something, rather than the end, then they only need to glance down the East Lancs Road to see they can use Wednesday's nightmare in Gdansk as a springboard.

With emotions raw the fallout from another big game that United have allowed to get away from them will be fierce. They should have beaten Villarreal and had this been a two-legged tie in an earlier knockout round they would have done so. But at the moment they are finding stage fright a difficult demon to overcome on the biggest nights.

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer had spoken on Tuesday about how he wanted the Europa League trophy to act as a catalyst for his team. The feeling of winning rather than the silverware it conveys can be an addictive drug. Instead, United were left with a nasty come down in Gdansk after a heartbreaking penalty shoot-out defeat, one that has simply raised more questions the next time they're within touching distance of success.

But the pain of defeat in a final can still be a worthwhile feeling to experience. United don't tend to look towards Liverpool for inspiration but their manager was derided as a big-game bottler as well for a while. They didn't wilt from a disappointing defeat to Emery's Sevilla in 2016, but used it as a stepping stone for progress, even if more pain in finals was to come in the Champions League in 2018.

The year after the Europa League final defeat Jurgen Klopp's side added 16 points to their Premier League tally. The year after their defeat to Real Madrid in the Champions League final they added 22 points to their total and the trophies, eventually, arrived. Solskjaer's United will take comfort from an eight-point improvement this season but they will need to double that next year to win the title.

There are other similarities between the two clubs' fight to get back to where they feel they belong. After defeat to Sevilla Liverpool appointed the low-key figure of Michael Edwards as sporting director. United have followed a similar approach with new football director John Murtough, a man who commands respect but who works in the shadows, unlike some of his contemporaries on the continent.

Liverpool were a couple of game-changing signings away from challenging for the title and they used the sale of Philippe Coutinho to fund the arrival of Virgil van Dijk and Alisson. United don't need to sell to buy but there is a feeling that two or three decisive deals could be worth a dozen points, at least. A centre back has to be top of that list.

For all the success Klopp eventually achieved at Liverpool, it took time to get there and the same was always going to be true of United as well. There would be bumps in the road, it's how they're navigated that will be the true test.

Perhaps the biggest difference between the two examples is who is in the dugout. With Klopp Liverpool would have always felt sure they were on to a winner, he had a proven track record in the Bundesliga. With Solskjaer it still feels like United are playing their chips in the casino.

The Norwegian has improved as a manager in his two-and-a-half years at Old Trafford - even if he will always resist inquiries as to his own development in press conferences - and he's done enough to earn a new contract this summer, with 12 months left on his current deal. But there are still questions to answer and Wednesday night in Gdansk wasn't one he will remember fondly.

Unlike Klopp, Solskjaer doesn't have a track record to fall back on. Success with Molde and failure at Cardiff wouldn't normally qualify you to be the Manchester United manager. He's faced a wall of doubters from the very start and when things go wrong - as they did last night - it's those dissenting voices that come to the fore.

Among matchgoers Solskjaer retains support. He's lowered the average age of this squad, improved the atmosphere at Carrington and helped to reset the culture. The next challenge is winning. He doesn't have to travel far to see how a Europa League defeat can be an unwanted stop on a journey to a grander destination. But the next move will be crucial.

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GistLobby⚽: Manchester United can use the Liverpool FC blueprint to recover from Europa League final defeat
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