At the start of the season, Jose Mourinho had absolutely no interest in the Europa League.
“It [the Europa League] is not a competition that Man United wants,” he said ahead of their opening match against Feyenoord last September. “It is not one I want or the players but it is a competition where we are and that is the reality."
Back in September, Mourinho probably didn’t expect Europe’s lesser competition would represent United’s best chance to qualify for the Champions League. But that’s very much the case right now.
The Red Devils have reached the last four of the competition but are outside of the top four in the Premier League. In fact, Mourinho has even hinted at resting his squad in the league and prioritising the Europa League.
And his side took one giant step towards the final in Stockholm after a 1-0 victory at Celta Vigo in their semi-final on Thursday night.
Marcus Rashford’s stunning second-half free-kick sealed the win meaning they’re now favourites to meet Ajax - who beat Lyon 4-1 in their semi-final - in the final.
While the match lacked quality, Rashford’s effort was world-class. The 19-year-old whipped the ball over the wall and into the far corner to send the travelling United fans wild.
And it also sent Mourinho wild.
The Portuguese boss can be seen jumping off the bench and running over towards the United fans to celebrate. Considering he rarely shows his emotion when his team score, United fans absolutely loved his reaction.
Mourinho celebration & United fans' reaction
Take a look at Mourinho’s celebration and what United thought of it on Twitter:
Mourinho’s comments about Rashford’s attitude may explain why he was so happy to see the youngster find the back of the net.
Mourinho on Rashford
"Marcus Rashford is a 19-year-old kid who is in love with football,” said Mourinho. “He stays after training for half-an-hour to practice taking free-kicks and waits for the opportunity.
“He trains a lot, he practices, he enjoys the extra work. It's a great fee-kick because the ball moves really really fast, the goalkeeper makes a little movement, and I think with the speed of the ball it's impossible to save.
"He works and works and works, so we can forget his age."
United’s attentions will now have to turn to domestic football when they take on Arsenal at the Emirates on Sunday.
However, Mourinho confirmed after their victory in Spain that many of his players will be rested against the Gunners ahead of the second-leg.
"The players that are in accumulation, the players that are with lots of minutes because we played nine matches in April and this one, so 10 matches in four-and-a-half weeks,” he said.
"The players that are in accumulation, they are not going to play next weekend."
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