Manchester United earn Champions League berth with ‘pragmatism and humble principles’
Jose Mourinho relishes happy ending to ‘bad’ season that nets three trophies and a spot in Europe’s top competition
Manchester United manager Jose Mourinho said his side’s season had been a triumph of pragmatism over poetry following their Europa League success against Ajax in Stockholm.
In a poignant match scarred by Monday’s terror attack in Manchester, which left 22 people dead, United prevailed 2-0 via goals from Paul Pogba and Henrikh Mkhitaryan to win the tournament for the first time.
Mourinho has received criticism over the quality of United’s football and sixth-place finish in the Premier League, but he finishes his maiden season with three trophies and a place in next season’s Champions League.
“The poets are the ones that win every match,” said the Portuguese, who had previously led United to success in the Community Shield and League Cup.
“I think I am going to have one of these jobs in a few years. I always lose matches, but some guys win every time and I don’t.
— UEFA Europa League (@EuropaLeague) May 24, 2017
“But in a bad season, in a season where sometimes I felt my team is the worst in the world and I am the worst manager in the world, we won three trophies and go to the Champions League by winning a trophy.
“Not by finishing second or third or fourth. So the season was the victory of pragmatism and the people who respect the opponent and try to exploit the opponents’ weakness. Based on pragmatism and humble principles. Not poets.”
The United manager celebrated Wednesday’s victory exuberantly at the Friends Arena, at one point being bundled to the turf in an embrace with his jubilant son.
A two-time European champion with Porto and Inter Milan, Mourinho once declared he did not want to win the Europa League, saying success in the competition would be a “big disappointment”.
He has now won the tournament twice, having led Porto to glory in the UEFA Cup – as the Europa League was previously called – in 2003.
“To me it is the most important trophy of my career because it is the last [most recent] — that is how I look at things,” he said.
“Of course, Champions League is bigger than Europa League, but that is the last trophy and that is when the feelings are under the skin and obviously it is a fantastic feeling for the team.
‘We’d swap cup for victims’ lives’ says Mourinho after Manchester United beat Ajax to win Europa League
“It means everything. It means the third trophy and going back to the Champions League and winning a European trophy and playing Super League in Macedonia in August and means for the club the last piece of the puzzle.
“Now it is like Ajax and some other clubs with every trophy in the world of football, so it means everything.”
Beaten coach Peter Bosz said United “only played long balls and didn’t take any risks”, turning Ajax’s first European final in 21 years into what he called “a boring game”.
But having fielded a team with an average age of 22 years and 282 days, the youngest to ever start a major European final, he expressed hope they would be better for the experience.
“For all the players, this was the first final,” he said. “You have to learn from it. All the players who played today learnt a lot.
“They’re not used to playing a final, these young kids. It’s all new for them. They will learn a lot from it and become stronger.
“If we can keep this squad together, we will be stronger next season, for sure.”