The Warm-Up: Manchester United Mourinho their way to Europa League final
Manchester United make the Europa League final, but they don't exactly do it with style.
FRIDAY'S BIG HEADLINES
United into Europa League final - just
Glory, glory Man Utd. Fairly desperately clinging on against a second-rate team in a second-rate competition they never wanted to play in, with their manager using numbingly defensive tactics and having to rely on a Manchester City reject to lose his faculties in front of goal. And they say tradition is dead in football?
The commentator described John Guidetti's miss as one of those "Sliding Doors moments”, an instant where fate contorts in one direction when it could just as easily have gone in the other. After United had a goal disallowed in the six minutes of injury time against Celta Vigo, the Spanish side went down the other end in the final seconds and were *this* close to the away goal which would have sent them into the Europa League final at United’s expense.
Granted, Guidetti doesn't cover himself in glory - especially after promising to "keep Manchester blue” before the match, when as it turned out he had that covered himself - but a few things here:
- The ball comes behind him
- The cross is delivered at pace
- He has a defender right in front of him
- WHY THE HELL DIDN’T CLAUDIO BEAUVUE SHOOT????
Guidetti’s gaffe, if we can describe it as strongly as that, brought to mind the tackle with which Javier Mascherano stopped Lord Nicklas Bendtner from scoring in a Champions League match in 2011: the last-gasp goal would have sent Arsenal through, yet Barcelona went on to win the competition. The difference being that Arsenal hadn’t had a shot on target up to that point. Their progression would have been a total fluke.
By contrast, United’s would have been one of their own design after sitting back and making defensive substitutions against a pretty weak Celta Vigo side. It was… not quite what you associate with United. We shouldn’t be too picky: United have won the League Cup and are now in the final which can deliver the only European trophy they haven’t won, a place in the Champions League and a shot at the European Super Cup. But the outcome can only be viewed apart from the process for so long.
Jose Mourinho has only one thing in common with United’s best traditions: winning. It's enough. For now.
Ajax survive scare to join United
Ajax Amsterdam feiert nach dem Weiterkommen gegen LyonGetty Images
It wasn't just Mourinho who had to sweat it out. Despite being 4-1 up from the first leg of their semi-final against Lyon, Ajax were taken to within a goal of extra-time by Lyon, who at one stage saw Alexandre Lacazette score twice in under 90 seconds. Still, it is the extravagantly talented young Ajax who United will play in Stockholm, replete with a 19-year-old wonderkid to rival Marcus Rashford in Kasper Dolberg.
It's Ajax first European final since 1995 and their amazing victory over AC Milan in the Champions League, with Louis van Gaal as manager. Any chance King Louis joins the BT coverage for the final as chief pundit?
Conte unconvincing on his future
Chelsea's imminent title party is threatening to get a bit spoiled by persistent reports out of Italy that Inter are determined to get the man who made it all possible: Antonio Conte. Suggestions he is Inter's top choice were all over the front pages of the Italian press yesterday and, with Conte's family still living back home, he hardly painted his colours to the Chelsea mast in a press conference yesterday.
" I have a contract for another two years with Chelsea but, for me and my players, the important thing is to be focused on the present. This moment is very important. The future is not important for any single person: me or the players. It’s normal to have a lot of speculation around players and coaches, so it’s important not to lose the concentration and be focused as we try to reach this fantastic target."
We are probably reading far too much into this, but...
IN OTHER NEWS
Football history was made last night when the new ABBA penalty format was debuted, at the Women's Under-17 Championship in fact. And there's bad news guys: Germany still win.
IN THE CHANNELS
'Roy Keane Slams United Performance' isn't exactly front-page news these days but he's always worth listening to as a leading member of the Fergie generation, those golden years when every game was won 5-3 and John O'Shea never played a match.
Normally this is the place where The Warm-Up would try and get excited about a mid-table Bundesliga battle, but praise be, this Friday we have some Premier League football - and a big game at that. If Chelsea win away at West Brom they will be crowned champions, while Everton take on Watford as well, for no discernable reason. Why not? You can follow both of those live with us.
John Guidetti will be on duty for Monday's Warm-Up, unless he misses his flight right at the last minute, in which case it will be Adam Hurrey as usual