Story so far: Europa League finalists Manchester United
Monday, 22 May 2017
There have been hiccups along the way, but Manchester United have made it all the way to Stockholm and now they must hold their breath as they look to clear the final hurdle.
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Story of the season
United opened their European campaign against now Dutch champions Feyenoord and will end it against Eredivisie runners-up Ajax. In fact they started with a 1-0 defeat in Rotterdam and have struggled throughout on the road, winning just three of their seven away fixtures. Old Trafford has been their salvation, however, six victories in seven games on home soil ensuring they have solidly if unspectacularly picked their way through this competition.
Record this season: P14 W9 D3 L2 F23 A8
United were outrun and outpassed for much of their semi-final second leg against Celta Vigo – their 12th match in 41 days – and were left hanging on at the end. How enormously grateful they were, then, for Marcus Rashford's superb free-kick midway through the second half of the first leg in Spain. It was a moment of genuine quality which ultimately took United to Stockholm.
Henrikh Mkhitaryan did not make his European debut for United until matchday four but has since been a regular fixture under José Mourinho. The Armenian international, 28, has scored five goals in just 743 minutes of UEFA Europa League football, including key knockout phase efforts away to St-Étienne (1-0), Rostov (1-1) and Anderlecht (1-1).
Who's in charge?
Need we introduce Mourinho? The Portuguese, a UEFA Cup winner with Porto back in 2003, has been as pragmatic as ever in his first season at United and he has not played down the emphasis he is placing on this tournament. Indeed he called the second leg against Celta "the biggest match in our history", so he will be piling even more pressure on his players ahead of the decider.
Why this is United's year
Mourinho. United have been stodgy at times this term but their manager looks to have mapped out much of their campaign with Wednesday 24 May in mind. He is a man who knows how to execute a plan and a record of 11 wins in 13 career finals bodes well for his team.
Why United will have to wait till next year
The Red Devils will be without talismanic figures at both ends of the pitch, key centre-back Eric Bailly suspended and totemic forward Zlatan Ibrahimović injured, cruelly denying him a swansong back in Sweden. Their replacements have big shoes to fill.
Route to the final
|Stage||Match (click links for highlights)|
|Group Stage||Feyenoord 1-0 Man. United||L|
|Group Stage||Man. United 1-0 Zorya||W|
|Group Stage||Man. United 4-1 Fenerbahçe||W|
|Group Stage||Fenerbahçe 2-1 Man. United||L|
|Group Stage||Man. United 4-0 Feyenoord||W|
|Group Stage||Zorya 0-2 Man. United||W|
|Round of 32||Man. United 3-0 St-Étienne||W|
|Round of 32||St-Étienne 0-1 Man. United (agg: 0-4)||W|
|Round of 16||Rostov 1-1 Man. United||D|
|Round of 16||Man. United 1-0 Rostov (agg: 2-1)||W|
|Quarter-finals||Anderlecht 1-1 Man. United||D|
|Quarter-finals||Man. United 2-1 Anderlecht, aet (agg: 3-2)||W|
|Semi-finals||Celta 0-1 Man. United||W|
|Semi-finals||Man. United 1-1 Celta||D|