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 were.
“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 tonight.
“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 (on Thursday) we can do it and if we can go to the final.
“But it doesn’t matter what, no regrets, We are giving everything we can - the players, myself, everyone that works around.
“We are giving everything so when you give everything, no problem.”
Meanwhile, Wayne Rooney wants to stay at United, even if the lack of game-time is grating on the club’s all-time top scorer.
For so long a key player for club and country, this season the 31-year-old has found himself in the unusual position of scrapping for a starting role.
Rooney has made just 22 United starts across the competitions and continuing questions over his viability at the top level have fuelled talk that his future lies away from Old Trafford.
“Of course you want to play, you want to play every game,” he said. “Sometimes that’s football.
“I’ve had to keep working and try to take my chances when I get the opportunity. That’s what I’ve done and when called upon I’ll try my best to help the team.”
Asked if he thinks tonight could be his final chance to reach a big final with United, Rooney said: “My focus is on trying to help us win this final and that’s my sole focus.
“I think it’s a massive opportunity for us as a group of players to win a European title and my focus is to help us try and win this one.”
Rooney continues to be linked with a big-money move to China, where his agent Paul Stretford spent time earlier in the year speaking to interested clubs.
Everton and the United States are other potential destinations, but Rooney is keen to stay at Old Trafford, even if he had to be pushed on a subject the forward seemed keen to skirt around.
“Would I like to stay? I’ve been at this club 13 years,” he said. “Of course I want to play football. Of course (I want to do it here).”
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