Ole Gunnar Solskjaer felt Manchester United had enough potential matchwinners to delay a substitution in the Europa League final defeat to Villarreal.
United lost 11-10 in a penalty shootout but Solskjaer’s substitution strategy was widely criticised after he did not make a change until the 100th minute.
Solskjaer sent midfielder Fred on to replace Mason Greenwood and did not make any more alterations until the last five minutes of extra-time.
Axel Tuanzebe and Daniel James came on for Eric Bailly and Paul Pogba before Juan Mata and Alex Telles entered due to their penalty-taking prowess.
There was widespread surprise Marcus Rashford played the whole match despite producing one of the poorest performances of his career and, by accommodating Rashford and Greenwood in the same line-up, Solskjaer left himself with few proven attacking options on the bench.
“We felt the players out there – you’ve got Mason and Marcus, matchwinners in their own right,” Solskjaer explained. “Bruno, Edi, can create anything, Scott I felt was the best player on the pitch, and Paul.
“It’s difficult to make that change, especially when Fred has been injured for a week, but he came on and did well, the boy. We just couldn’t create enough chances to win the game.
“When they’ve got [Pau] Torres and [Raul] Albiol in there on crosses it’s always going to be difficult. We needed to play our way into the box quicker.
“You’ve got players with high quality there. We started with loads of golascorers, matchwinners and we hoped that was going to give us the upper hand. We just couldn’t get the first goal.
“Disappointed we conceded with their only shot on target. After we scored it looked like the game was there for us. Scott McTominay was absolutely outstanding out there. For me, the best player on the pitch.”
The disappointment of a fourth trophyless season means United are close to matching the five-year drought between 1985 and ’90 that almost resulted in Alex Ferguson’s sacking. They have also lost their last two finals.
Solskjaer suffered defeat in two finals as a player with the club and has urged the current players to channel the negativity of Gdansk into a potentially positive season.
“That disappointment is the worst feeling,” Solskjaer emphasised. “These are the moments you remember most as a player and as a manager, and there are two ways.
“You can feel sorry for yourself, go on holiday and don’t do anything about it or you can go home, do something about it, come back better, stronger, more hungry, ready from the first minute because we know that we didn’t start this season great.
“We fell too far behind to be challenging for the league, so we need to start really well.”