‘We’d swap cup for victims’ lives’ says Mourinho after Manchester United beat Ajax to win Europa League
Joy of victory overshadowed by Monday’s suicide bomb in the city
Manchester United manager Jose Mourinho said his side would give up their Europa League trophy if it would bring back the 22 victims of Monday’s terror attack in Manchester.
United beat Ajax 2-0 in Stockholm on Wednesday to win the Europa League for the first time, but the game was overshadowed by the deadly suicide attack on concert-goers at Manchester Arena, which also left dozens injured.
“If we could, we would obviously change the people’s lives for this cup, immediately,” Mourinho told reporters at the Friends Arena.
“We wouldn’t think twice. Does this cup make the city of Manchester a little bit happier? Maybe. But we just came to do our job.
“We came without the happiness we should bring with us, because when you come for these big matches, you come happy, you come proud. And we didn’t. we just came to do our job.”
The game was preceded by a minute’s silence, which was interrupted by applause from both sets of fans, and United’s players wore black armbands.
Mourinho agreed with European governing body Uefa’s decision to allow the match to go ahead, but said the victory would always be associated with sad thoughts about what happened in Manchester.
“It’s really hard,” said the Portuguese, whose pre-match press conference on Tuesday was cancelled.
“That’s why yesterday we didn’t want to have the press conference because we had to prepare ourselves to do our job and to try to forget events that are obviously much more important than our job.
“But the world goes on. It doesn’t stop and we have to do our work. I agree with the Uefa decision to play the match.
“But if we have questions like your questions that made us return to this tragedy, obviously it takes happiness from our achievement.”
French midfielder Paul Pogba, who opened the scoring in the game, dedicated the triumph to the victims, saying: “We played for the people who died.”
“These things are terrible all over the world, in London and in Paris,” said Pogba, who was also playing at the Stade de France on the night of the November 2015 Paris terror attacks.
“We went out focused to win and we won for Manchester and the country,” he said.
“We played for England, we played for Manchester and we played for the people who died.”
United fan favourite Ander Herrera, voted man of the match, echoed Pogba’s words.
“I want to dedicate the trophy to the victims,” the Spanish midfielder told a press conference.
“Yesterday morning we were devastated. We were really, really sad. It was really, really difficult to train.
“But the manager told us the only thing we could do was to win this for them and that’s what we’ve done.”
Spain international Juan Mata said: “We have won a trophy the club has never won, so we are really happy.
“It means a lot as it is my first European trophy with United and after what happened yesterday, it is nice to bring a trophy back for Manchester.
“It has been a really difficult week in the city of Manchester and we are happy to win for all the people that have suffered.”