Jose Mourinho hailed Manchester United’s fighting spirit after they held on to beat Celta Vigo and reach the Europa League final.
Marouane Fellaini put United 2-0 ahead in the semi-final on aggregate when he headed home in the 17th minute of the second leg at Old Trafford.
But Celta grabbed a late equaliser on the night and went close to snatching victory on away goals when John Guidetti missed a gilt-edged chance with the final kick of the match.
Mourinho, who had called the match the most important in United’s history, said afterwards: “Obviously Man Utd have had other semi-finals, finals, Champions League finals, and obviously this was not the most important match in the club’s history or mine, but it was just a way to approach things.
“Because obviously for Celta it was the most important match of their history and it was very important for us that we equalled that desire. And in the end when the game was difficult, when they were better than us, when we were in trouble, when we were not playing well, it was that mentality and desire and togetherness that made the boys fight until the end.”
United will face Ajax in the final in Stockholm on Wednesday, May 24 as they look to complete a double in Mourinho’s first season in charge and secure qualification for next season’s Champions League.
“It is an opportunity to win a trophy,” said Mourinho. “It’s an opportunity to be back into the Champions League and an opportunity to end the season in the perfect way because the final is the last match of the season.”
Mourinho also reflected on the tie as a whole, with United failing to take their chances in the first leg in Spain as they only won 1-0 despite dominating.
“Every game has a different story, but our story this season is normally when we play very well we don’t score enough goals, and then when you don’t play so well you are in trouble,” he said.
“In Vigo we played very well, from the first minute I felt calm, relaxed, everything was under control, I don’t remember one chance they had, and we had big chances to kill the tie.
“Today in the second half they had nothing to lose and mentally they had that advantage – a team with nothing to lose against a team that is winning and playing at home, the team that has the responsibility on their shoulders, and they gambled.
“It’s difficult when I want the players to bring the block up but they know they are winning and not far from the final so they stay back and even myself I have to choose in that moment to bring on [Anthony] Martial or [Juan] Mata or give some support because the block is staying back.”