Semi-final is most important game in United’s history - Mourinho

Manchester United manager Jose Mourinho. Photo: Martin Rickett)
Manchester United manager Jose Mourinho. Photo: Martin Rickett)

Jose Mourinho has called on the Old Trafford faithful to raise the roof for a Europa League semi-final the manager claims is the “most important” match in Manchester United’s history.

After a long, arduous campaign, United are within touching distance of the May 24 finale in Stockholm.

United would obviously rather their tilt at continental glory came in the Champions League than the Europa League, but this competition offers silverware and a return to the top table.

Standing in the Red Devils’ way in the last four are Celta Vigo, who arrive at Old Trafford looking to overturn a 1-0 first-leg defeat to reach their first major European final.

It is a huge occasion for the Spanish club - as it is, Mourinho says, for the three-time European champions.

“I think in terms of motivation, we are even,” the United manager said.

“For Celta it is, in their words, the most important match of their history.

“And my feelings, it’s also the most important match of our history.

“It doesn’t matter what happened before, it doesn’t matter how big matches we played before.

“What matters is the next one and the next one is (on Thursday), so I don’t believe Celta dreams more than us, that Celta wants more than us.

“I really don’t believe so in this aspect I don’t think there will be a difference between both teams.”

Mourinho wants that desire to be matched in the stands against Celta Vigo.

The atmosphere at Old Trafford has been lacking at times - certainly compared to the raucous away support - and the United boss wants to be spurred on by their fans on Thursday.

“I see a difference between matches,” Mourinho said. “I don’t think it’s consistent, the atmosphere and enthusiasm.

“I could feel, for example, the match against Chelsea (2-0 Premier League win on April 16), they wanted to play from the first minute until the last. It was really a very strong Old Trafford.

“We had other matches, for example, against Anderlecht where the stadium was not warm enough to make us feel that it was a very important match for us.

“It was the second leg quarter-final so hopefully (Thursday) they have this feeling that it is a second leg semi-final.

“The only game more important than the second leg of a semi-final is the final, so we have to fight hard (on Thursday).”

The Europa League is Mourinho’s main focus and has been since injuries began to pile up last month.

Acceptance that a Premier League top-four finish is likely beyond United led to changes in Sunday’s loss at rivals Arsenal, but the Portuguese is unapologetic.

“When we lost them in a period of 17 matches in seven weeks, it was the impossible job,” he said.

“It was not a gamble - it was just a consequence of our situation.

“We are in this situation now and we have to fight for it, so let’s see if we can do it and if we can go to the final.”