Jose Mourinho says he will unapologetically seek to preserve the freshness of his Manchester United players over their final three Premier League games after they reached the Europa League final.
United will play Ajax in Stockholm on May 24 after a nervy 1-1 draw at home to Celta Vigo on Thursday, in which centre back Eric Bailly was sent off, gave them a 2-1 aggregate semi-final win.
“Their league finishes on Sunday, and they will have 12 days to prepare for the final and we have three Premier League matches to play.
“Hopefully Crystal Palace (United’s final league opponents) don’t need the last game, because in the last game, I’m going to make a lot of changes and nobody can blame us because we have a final two days later.”
With United struggling to secure a top-four finish in the Premier League, having fallen four points behind fourth-place Manchester City, winning the Europa League is their last hope of reaching the Champions League.
But Mourinho said it would be wrong purely to view the final as a means to an end, particularly as United have never previously won the competition.
“It means an opportunity to win a trophy, the opportunity to be back in the Champions League,” said the Portuguese, who won the UEFA Cup – the precursor to the Europa League – with
“It means an opportunity to end the season in the perfect way because the final is the last match of the season.”
Leading 1-0 from last week’s first leg in
But Facundo Roncaglia reduced the arrears with five minutes remaining before being sent off following a shoving match with Bailly.
Celta had United on edge throughout and had substitute Claudio Beauvue shot rather than crossed when he found himself six yards from goal in stoppage time, they might have gone through.
Mourinho said Bailly might have been “naive” during a post-match television interview, but in his subsequent press conference, he said he had not seen the incident again and did not want to comment on it.
Despite the agonising nature of their elimination, Celta coach Eduardo Berizzo said his club would reflect with fondness on their Europa League exploits.
“You learn from defeats and eventually down the line, you hope to turn those defeats into victories,” said the former
“I couldn’t be more proud of my players. They covered every blade of grass. I’m proud of the connection they made with the fans that travelled all the way from
“Every defeat is bitter. But when you look back on it and analyse it, I think it’ll confirm what I’ve thought about my team all season.
“We’ve had a fantastic season. I can’t blame my players in any way. We couldn’t quite turn our dream into reality, but we showed great bravery out there.”