So Manchester United did it - the Red Devils have booked their place in the Champions League and with silverware to show for it.
Despite an immeasurable amount of pressure riding on the final, United swept aside Ajax in a pragmatic 2-0 victory. It secured the Europa League title and a successful climax to a bizarre, albeit fruitful, European run.
However, in light of this week’s tragic events, there was an underlying awareness that United were playing for more than just a Champions League place.
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Monday evening saw a tragic attack on an Ariana Grande concert at MEN Arena in which 22 people were killed. Children were amongst the dead.
In light of the tragedy, the people of Manchester have shown admirable resilience and demonstrated togetherness in the face of tragedy. Such an attitude was finely encapsulated by the Manchester United squad, too.
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The Red Devils held a moment of silence during training and everyone within the team expressed their desire to play-on in Stockholm.
As a result, there was a greater meaning to the match and the feeling that United would be representing the strength and passion of their city in the way they played. In that sense, they undoubtedly did the people proud.
Goals from Paul Pogba and Henrikh Mkhitaryan secured silverware, European qualification and a well-needed boost. Such emotions were cemented by a poignant dressing room photo from the squad amidst the ecstasy and relief as well.
It wasn’t just the red side of Manchester standing strong in the face of adversity though, with City taking to Twitter after United claimed victory. It proved an appropriate moment to show solidarity.
The Citizens posted the following photo:
The double meaning of the phrase is beautifully fitting, literally outlining how the city is united while spelling out the names of the two teams in unison. It served as yet another reminder of the city’s cohesion and community response to the week’s tragedy.
Some fans took the post the wrong way but there is a general acknowledgement of the sincerity behind the gesture fronted by City.
What is for sure is that United put in a performance representative of an inspiring humanitarian response this week. Coupled with the frequenting of Oasis on national radio, it shows how Manchester’s solid roots in sport and music can pull it through the toughest times.
United, and City, have certainly united.
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