Manchester United boss Jose Mourinho insisted his maiden season in the Old Trafford hotseat would be an unqualified success if his side seal the Europa League title after a nerve-shredding semi-final second leg against Celta Vigo.
United appeared to be coasting to victory following Marouane Fellaini’s early header before Celta set up a tense finale courtesy of Facundo Roncaglia’s strike and almost snatched an unlikely aggregate victory in the dying embers.
But a 17th draw of the season – their 11th at home – was enough for the Red Devils, who have already been crowned League Cup champions this term, to creep into the final against Ajax in Stockholm on 24 May.
“I’d be more than happy,” said Mourinho. “If we win the Europa League I would be more than happy. This season was so difficult for me but if we manage to do that it would be amazing.”
Mourinho also played down the relevance of his perfect managerial record against Ajax, who squeezed past Lyon 5-4 on aggregate last night, in six matches.
“It means nothing,” added the Portuguese. “It will be difficult. They are a young team who finish the league this weekend [with a game against Willem II].
“So from this weekend they will have 12 days to prepare for the final, and we have three matches to play in the Premier League and not many players.”
United had never lost a two-legged European tie after winning the first leg away from home and went some way to securing their place in a seventh continental final by opening the scoring on 17 minutes.
Striker Marcus Rashford, who netted the all-important away goal in the first leg, delivered a floated cross towards the far post which allowed Fellaini to plant a firm header beyond Celta goalkeeper Sergio Alvarez. The visitors now required at least two goals to progress.
Such a feat looked a tough proposition for a side which had lost five successive matches across all competitions, although a Daniel Wass header, which whistled past Sergio Romero’s right-hand post, registered Celta’s continued presence in the tie.
Alvarez tipped over a piledriver from Henrikh Mkhitaryan early in the second period, while the Spanish outfit ensured a strained ending when Roncaglia flicked an 85th minute header beyond Romero from Theo Bongonda’s cross.
Centre-half Eric Bailly, who will now miss the final, and Roncaglia were sent off with only a couple of minutes remaining following a fracas.
Deep into injury time, former Manchester City striker John Guidetti wasted a glorious opportunity to snatch victory from the jaws of elimination.
Guidetti, who has also had spells with Celtic, Stoke and Burnley, failed to sort his feet out and convert a pull-back from Claudio Beauvue, who chose not to shoot himself despite being handily placed.