Tuesday 25 July 2017

WATCH: Jose Mourinho's joyous celebration in front of Man United fans a far cry from his comments four years ago

Jose Mourinho
Jose Mourinho
Jose Mourinho was emotional after semi-final win

Harry Clarke

He picked up a Manchester United scarf with one hand and furiously fist-pumped with the other. Jose Mourinho may have dismissed the Europa League in previous years but things are different now.

It was only four years ago when Mourinho claimed that winning this competition would be a big disappointment because the Champions League was where he wants to be.

How times have changed.

Now Mourinho - who claimed that last night's match was the "biggest in Manchester United's history" - says winning the Europa League would be the "perfect ending" to his first season as Manchester United boss.

Having travelled to Holland, Turkey, Ukraine, France, Russia, Belgium and Spain, the arduous continental campaign has brought a shot at glory.

Ajax lie in wait in the Stockholm finale on May 24 after United edged through a frantic, tempestuous semi-final against Celta Vigo.

Mourinho's side were made to sweat as Thursday's 1-1 draw saw them through 2-1 on aggregate, giving the Portuguese the chance to add to this season's EFL Cup and Community Shield successes.

"In the end, when the game was difficult, when they were better than us and we were in trouble and not playing well, it was that mentality, that desire, that togetherness that made the boys fight until the end," Mourinho said.

The final means an opportunity to win a trophy, to be back in the Champions League, and to end the season in the perfect way because it is the last match of the season."

United will be without a host of key players in Sweden, with Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Ashley Young, Marcos Rojo, Luke Shaw and Tim Fosu-Mensah out for the remainder of the campaign.

Eric Bailly will also sit out the Europa League final after being sent off for raising his hand to John Guidetti shortly after Facundo Roncaglia cancelled out Marouane Fellaini's header.

Celta goalscorer Roncaglia was also dismissed in a flare-up that frustrated boss Mourinho, who told BT Sport: "I didn't see the incident, but he was phenomenal.

"The game was emotional until the end for everyone. Some kept control in better ways than others.

"I don't know but I think it was with Roncaglia, right? Roncaglia's not new in these kind of situations and probably Eric was a bit naive. We lose a very important player for the final and we don't have many."

Considering the absentees and the fact Europa League glory offers silverware and Champions League qualification, Mourinho will again rotate with the final in mind.

Premier League trips to Tottenham and Southampton are followed by Crystal Palace's visit to Old Trafford - a match the Portuguese has vowed to make "a lot" of changes for.

He explained: "Obviously now Ajax think about the final. Their league finishes on Sunday and they will have 10 days to prepare. We have three league matches to play.

"Hopefully Crystal Palace don't need (anything from) the last game because I am going to make a lot of changes.

"It doesn't matter what happens. And nobody can blame us, because we have a final three days later."

Additional reporting by PA

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