Jose Mourinho and Manchester United may not have been looking forward to playing in the Europa League this season, but the competition represents a chance to salvage a fairly underwhelming campaign.
The Red Devils have reached the last four of Europe’s secondary competition, where they will face Celta Vigo.
United have never won the competition before so are, understandably, rather keen to add it to their impressive trophy cabinet. But their main motivation to win the Europa League is the fact they would be awarded a place in next season’s Champions League - something that looks unlikely via their league position.
Mourinho’s side are one point adrift of city rivals, Manchester City, while they trail Liverpool by four points with a game in hand in their quest to finish in the top four. However, with trips to Arsenal and Tottenham still to come, Mourinho may opt to concentrate on the Europa League - something that he’s previously alluded to.
“If we have to rest players next weekend then we are going to do that,” he said ahead of the Celta Vigo clash.
What team Mourinho fields against Arsenal this coming week remains to be seen but there’s very little doubt he will playing his strongest possible side in Spain in the first leg.
In that line-up is likely to be Henrik Mkhitaryan. And, if the Armenian does play, he’ll be hoping to break a club record.
That’s because the former Borussia Dortmund star will become the first United player to score in five consecutive European away matches in a single season if he nets against Celta Vigo.
The winger scored in the 2-0 win at Zorya in the group stage before scoring United’s only goal in the knockout stages against Saint-Etienne (1-0), Rostov (1-1) and Anderlecht (1-1).
Mkhitaryan will be hoping he can rewrite the record books and help his side take one step towards the final in Stockholm.
Waiting in the final is likely to be a youthful and impressive Ajax side. They beat Lyon 4-1 in their first leg and their fans must already be booking their travel and accommodation in Sweden for May 24.
Mkhitaryan has the chance to help United join them and break a club record in the process.
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