United went through to the May 26 showdown in Gdansk 8-5 on aggregate despite a 3-2 defeat in Rome while Villarreal held on to their 2-1 first-leg lead to get past the Gunners at the Emirates Stadium.
Edinson Cavani was key for United at the Stadio Olimpico, scoring both of the Premier League side’s goals as they held off a valiant attempt at an improbable comeback from their Italian opposition.
The hosts missed a series of chances and found the net through Edin Dzeko, Bryan Cristante and an Alex Telles own goal in a display that will restore some pride for Roma after the 6-2 hammering they suffered at Old Trafford last week.
“The second half today was disappointing, very, very poor, but we’re in the final,” said United manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer after the match.
“We played one very, very good half at Old Trafford which has taken us through.
“I’m disappointed we lost, especially the way we played in the second half.
“It could easily have been 8-6 to them. It was a strange game. We kept giving them the ball but luckily we have one of the best keepers in the world. We are in the final and are looking forward to 26 May.”
Solskjaer criticised football authorities for United’s punishing schedule after his side advanced to the final, calling it “physically impossible” for his team.
His players have to face the prospect of four Premier League fixtures in 10 days – they travel to Aston Villa on Sunday and by next Thursday they will have hosted Liverpool and Leicester, with the visit of Fulham coming the following Tuesday.
“It’s unheard of. It’s made by people who have never played football at this level,” raged Solskjaer to BT Sport.
“It’s physically impossible for the players. We have not been dealt a good hand. We are going to need everyone for these four games. It’s a short turnaround but we have to be ready.”
Gunners sunk by Yellow Submarine
Arsenal meanwhile are all but out of Europe next season following their limp exit to La Liga outfit Villarreal, who reached their first ever European final thanks to a goalless draw in London.
Mikel Arteta’s Arsenal are way behind the European places in the Premier League as they sit ninth in England’s top flight.
“We are devastated,” said Arteta. “We tried everything until the last minute. I think we deserved to win the game but the details define these ties.”
Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang twice hit the post for Arsenal, while Emile Smith Rowe sliced a glorious chance wide early in the second-half.
“We had three big chances, they didn’t have anything but they are through,” added Arteta, who was forced into a last minute reshuffle when Granit Xhaka picked up an injury in the warm-up.
“So many things happened to us, and so many players were just trying to compete not at their best.”
Villarreal’s first European final prevented a clean sweep for Premier League sides across the Champions League and Europa League.
Known as the “Yellow Submarine”, they are managed by former Arsenal manager Unai Emery. The Spaniard was sacked after just 18 months as Arsene Wenger’s successor, but again showed his experience at this level by guiding his side through despite vastly inferior resources to his former club.
“I’m very proud because we know it is very important for us and Arsenal are a very good team,” said Emery.
“Today we are thinking to enjoy this moment and then we prepare the match against Manchester United.
“We deserve to play this final and we will show our best performance. We want to fight against Manchester for this title.”