LONDON: Manchester United cruised into the Europa League final despite defeat in Rome but Arsenal failed to make it a clean sweep of English finalists in European competition as they were eliminated by Villarreal.
Mikel Arteta’s Gunners were made to pay for their 2-1 semi-final first-leg defeat in his native Spain as former Arsenal boss Unai Emery’s Villarreal booked a final against United with a second-leg goalless draw at The Emirates.
Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang twice struck the post – with the outside of his right foot in the first half and with a header after the break – but those were the only real moments of danger for the visitors.
Had the Gunners progressed to join the Red Devils, it would have been the second time in three seasons that four English sides contested the two major European finals – after Liverpool beat Tottenham in the 2019 Champions League final and Chelsea crushed Arsenal that same year.
But while Manchester City and Chelsea will play out an all-English Champions League final, United will face Villarreal, leaving Arsenal staring down the prospect of a failure to qualify for European competition for the first time in a quarter of a century.
Arsenal face a first season without European football in 25 years after drawing a blank in their Europa League semi-final second leg against Villarreal.
The Gunners were trailing 2-1 from the first leg in Spain and failed to overturn the deficit as Emery got one over his former club to once again reach the final of a competition he thrives in.
A 0-0 draw at the Emirates Stadium means Arsenal’s hopes of playing in Europe next season rely on an unlikely string of results in the Premier League.
Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang hit the post with Arsenal’s best chance as another tactical tweak from manager Mikel Arteta failed to pay off.
Emery won the Europa League three times as Sevilla manager and took Arsenal to the final in 2019, where they lost to Chelsea.
Arsenal lost Granit Xhaka after complaining of a tight muscle in the warm-up, but it was in attack where Arteta’s side were again found wanting.
Recalled Bernd Leno was the first goalkeeper tested, having to push a curling Samuel Chukwueze strike behind for a corner.
Arsenal had started much nervier than Villarreal but could have taken the lead when Aubameyang hit a dropping volley which clipped the post on the way behind.
Nicolas Pepe, whose penalty gave Arsenal their away goal, fired just wide as the hosts came out on the attack straight after the restart.
Arteta was then left with his head in his hands as Emile Smith Rowe attempted an audacious chip when well-placed, seeing the shot drift wide.
But it was not all going Arsenal’s way. Partey was robbed of possession just outside his own penalty area but Villarreal could not make him pay as Gerard Moreno’s shot was easily held by Leno.
Substitute Yeremi Pino was next to force Leno into action with a low strike well saved by the German.
With tempers starting to flare, Aubameyang saw a header kept out by a combination of goalkeeper and post with the rebound hacked off the line.
Manchester United are through to their first final under Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, with Edinson Cavani scoring twice in a second-leg defeat to Roma that could not deny them a place in the Europa League showpiece.
Having fallen at the semi-final stage on four occasions across the last two seasons, the Red Devils made it fifth time lucky to set-up a shot at glory against Villarreal in Poland on May 26.
Last week’s 6-2 victory at Old Trafford meant United already had one foot in the Gdansk finale ahead of the trip to Italy, where Roma made things uncomfortable and won an entertaining semi-final second leg 3-2.
Cavani was the star of the 8-5 aggregate triumph as he followed his first-leg brace with another pair in the eternal city, where he fired the visitors into a first-half lead from a fine Bruno Fernandes pass.
Cavani rose to head United back level on the night from another superb Fernandes ball, but Roma gave it their all days after it was confirmed that Paulo Fonseca would be succeeded by Solskjaer’s predecessor Jose Mourinho.
Teenage debutant Nicola Zalewski fired home a deflected late effort to seal the spirited hosts a second-leg victory, but it is the Red Devils heading to Poland for a shot at their first trophy since winning the competition in 2017.