Manchester United: Wayne Rooney describes Europa League semi-final against Celta Vigo as biggest game of post-Sir Alex Ferguson era

Joe Hall
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Manchester United captain Rooney
Rooney: The Manchester United captain has struggled to nail down a starting position this season (Source: Getty)

Wayne Rooney says the Europa League is the biggest competition Manchester United have had a chance of winning in the post-Sir Alex Ferguson era.

United, who lifted the FA Cup last season, hold a 1-0 advantage over Celta Vigo ahead of their Europa League semi-final second leg at Old Trafford tomorrow night.

A Europa League winner's medal is one of the few missing from Rooney's collection and the striker insisted that winning the competition — which would grant United passage into next season's Champions League — would top any of his team's recent achievements.

“It’s important for us to be back in the Champions League," he said. "This club belongs there. Realistically it’s going to be difficult to do it through the league.

“This is a European semi-final. It’s the biggest competition we’ve had a realistic chance of winning in the last two or three years.”

The 31-year-old admitted his frustration at a lack of first team appearances during Jose Mourinho's first season at United, but insists the pair have remained on good terms.

Rooney was forced to watch from the bench as 19-year-old striker Marcus Rashford notched the winner in Galicia last week.

"This season I haven't played as much as I would like," said Rooney.

Read more: Jose Mourinho refuses to offer guarantees over Wayne Rooney's Manchester United future

"I would like to play more. That's the way it's panned out but I've tried to help the team on and off the pitch. I haven't thrown my toys out of the pram but I do want to play to help the team."

Mourinho echoed his captain's sentiments about the prestige of the Europa League, which he described as an opportunity to earn the glory that is no longer on offer to them from domestic competitions.

United dropped first-team players for their trip to Arsenal in the Premier League last weekend, losing 2-0, with Mourinho appearing to rule out his side's chances of overhauling Manchester City and Liverpool in the top four.

"It is important for the club to fight for the only trophy that it has never won before," said the Portuguese.

"It is different to fight for top four than to play to win a European competition. Between fourth, fifth and sixth the difference is just to qualify for the Champions League but no trophy, no title, no honour, no prestige – nothing at all."

United will be without Timothy Fosu-Mensah, Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Marcos Rojo, Luke Shaw and Ashley Young who are all injured.

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