On an emotional night in the Swedish capital, Manchester United gained much sympathy for the atrocity inflicted on their home city – but a football match also broke out.

Here’s why it will be a night to remember.

A season rescued

Manchester United have been a pale shadow of the team that showered trophies on fans like confetti under Sir Alex Ferguson.

The confidence, swagger and style – all gone. The arrival this season of Jose Mourinho has not changed that.

But a trophy – indeed, the only significant one United had never won – will go some way to erasing a stultifying Premier League season featuring 10 draws in 19 matches at Old Trafford.

A smile from Jose

The tragedy back home meant it wasn’t a night for excessive celebrations, but Mourinho ended wreathed in smiles and dancing across the pitch to hug players.

It was a stark contrast to his sullen complaints of late about a shortage of fit players, a fixture overload and a lack of assistance from the Premier League in preparing for the final.

Success in Stockholm means he can afford to relax a little. There is much to do, but a trophy is a start, earned as it was with a disciplined performance that nullified Dutch opponents Ajax’s attacking threat.

Champions League ticket

In Stockholm, United won not just a trophy but the modern footballing equivalent of Willy Wonka’s golden ticket – a place in the Champions League, where Europe’s elite clubs do battle for glory – and a share of a £1.1 billion prize fund.

Mourinho decided weeks ago to sacrifice the chance of achieving that by finishing in the Premier League’s top four, and instead aim for the extra Champions League place awarded to the Europa League winners. The gamble paid off.

Star-studded summer?

One of the results of that is likely to be big-name arrivals to bolster United’s challenge in four competitions next season.

The world’s best want two things these days: sackfuls of cash and Champions League football. Old Trafford executives can now offer both to the likes of Antoine Griezmann, Atletico Madrid’s coveted French striker, who has said there is a six out of 10 chance of him moving to northwest England this summer.

Bye-bye Wayne?

As the final minutes ticked away in Stockholm, Mourinho sent on Wayne Rooney as a substitute, for his 559th Manchester United appearance.

Rooney lifted the trophy, and waved to the fans in the Friends Arena and watching on TV around the world. A farewell wave also? On his way to China? Or back home to Everton?

That, too, will be one of the stories of the summer, a summer which will feel a whole lot sunnier in the red half of Manchester, after a Stockholm evening which began with mourning but ended with a celebration.

(c) Sky News 2017: Five reasons for Manchester United to remember Europa League final

Comments

comments