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A former Arsenal player who was savagely written off by Sir Alex Ferguson gained ultimate revenge in front of the great manager's watching eyes on Wednesday night.
Sir Alex was in Gdansk to watch Manchester United take on Villarreal in the Europa League final and to be part of the trophy presentation ceremony afterwards. However the Spanish side upset the pre-match odds by winning after a 22-penalty shootout.
Francis Coquelin struck the best of those numerous penalties - sweeping into the top corner despite co-commentator Robbie Savage's prediction that he'd miss - and it must've been a sweet moment for a player who was once dismissed by Sir Alex in the most damning terms.
Man United absolutely thrashed a patched-up Arsenal side 8-2 in 2011, a game for which the 20-year-old midfielder Coquelin was rushed into the first team. Years later in his autobiography, Fergie reflected mercilessly on a harrowing Premier League debut.
"Arsenal played a young boy in midfield; Francis Coquelin," wrote Ferguson, per the Mirror. "He was completely out of his depth. I had hardly heard of him and he barely played again."
Ouch. It was actually a harsh assessment even before Wednesday as Coquelin went on to play 160 games for Arsenal, featuring in two FA Cup final wins. He later joined Valencia in 2017 and played in the team which beat Barcelona in a Copa del Rey final.
However a decade on from the 8-2 humiliation at Old Trafford that led to Fergie's scathing review of the French midfielder, Coquelin got to show Ferguson he had some value after all as he watched the game unfold.
Coquelin started as a substitute but arrived in the game on the hour mark, so played half of the 120 minutes, helping to shut down United's attacking threat from midfield - particularly in extra time where the Red Devils were surprisingly blunt.
Then Coquelin stepped up and delivered the most convincing penalty of the lot under the pressure of sudden death.
Coquelin's penalty :heart_eyes::heart_eyes:- SPORTbible (@sportbible) May 26, 2021
Post-match, an emotional Coquelin confessed: "The tournament has been a fairytale and beating them in the final is incredible."
He didn't mention how it felt to shake Sir Alex's hand before he accepted his winners' medal and lifted the trophy with his team.
But it must have been nice to remind the legendary manager who once claimed he'd "barely played again" that Coquelin was still playing - and winning - 10 years from the embarrassment of his nightmare Premier League debut.
All imagery: PA Images
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