Manchester United will have the chance to add the Europa League to their bulging trophy cabinet after edging through a frantic, tempestuous semi-final against Celta Vigo.
After 14 matches that have taken Jose Mourinho’s men to Holland, Turkey, Ukraine, France, Russia, Belgium and Spain, the long, arduous continental campaign has brought a shot at glory.
Reaching the May 24 finale was far from straightforward, though, as Marouane Fellaini’s first-half header was cancelled out by Facundo Roncaglia five minutes from the end of the semi-final second leg.
The drama did not end there as Celta’s goalscorer and Eric Bailly were sent off as tempers frayed, with United holding out for a 1-1 draw that saw them reach the Stockholm finale 2-1 on aggregate.Manchester United boss Jose Mourinho: “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. 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.”Celta boss Eduardo Berizzo: “I couldn’t be more proud of my players. They covered every blade of grass.I’m proud of the connection they made with the fans that travelled all the way from Galicia. Any defeat is bitter. But when you look back on it and analyse it, I think it’ll confirm what I’ve thought about my team all season. We’ve had a fantastic season. I can’t blame my players in any way. We couldn’t quite turn our dream into reality but we showed great bravery out there.”
Tweet of the match
Star man – Marcus Rashford
Marcus Rashford. Increasingly seems to be United’s man of the moment. The man who scored the winner with a superb free-kick in the first leg made an impressive impact once here again, teeing up Fellaini’s goal with a wonderful lofted ball into the box and causing several more problems for the visiting defence.
View from the bench
United’s task in sealing a spot in the final looked straightforward enough after that 17th minute goal, but their main feeling at the final whistle will surely have been relief. It was little wonder that boss Jose Mourinho looked tense throughout, with Celta having wasted some wonderful opportunities before scoring late on, and blowing another good chance at the death.
Moment of the match
Two weeks on from making headlines by being sent off for headbutting Sergio Aguero in the Manchester derby, Fellaini enjoyed some redemption here thanks to an altogether more positive contribution. He celebrated his goal passionately, punching the air in front of United’s fans after pointing to the name on his shirt – and heard it being chanted moments later. The Belgian has certainly had his share of critics, but there was vociferous appreciation for him from the Old Trafford stands on this occasion.
Player ratingsManchester United: Sergio Romero 7, Antonio Valencia 6, Eric Bailly 5, Daley Blind 6, Matteo Darmian 6, Ander Herrera 7, Paul Pogba 7, Marouane Fellaini 7, Jesse Lingard 6, Henrikh Mkhitaryan 7, Marcus Rashford 7. Substitutes: Michael Carrick (for Mkhitaryan) 6, Wayne Rooney (for Lingard) 6, Chris Smalling (for Rashford) 6.Celta Vigo: Sergio Alvarez 6, Hugo Mallo 6, Facundo Roncaglia 5, Gustavo Cabral 6, Jonny 6, Nemanja Radoja 6, Pablo Hernandez 7, Daniel Wass 5, Iago Aspas 7, Pione Sisto 7, John Guidetti 5. Substitutes: Jozabed (for Wass) 6, Theo Bongonda (for Radoja) 6, Claudio Beauvue (for Sisti) 6.
Who’s up next?
Tottenham v Manchester United (Premier League, May 14)
Alaves v Celta Vigo (LaLiga, May 14)