Jose Mourinho is eyeing the “perfect” end to his first season in the Old Trafford dugout after Manchester United reached the Europa League final.
Having travelled to Holland, Turkey, Ukraine, France, Russia, Belgium and Spain, the arduous continental campaign has brought a shot at glory.
Ajax lie in wait in the Stockholm finale on May 24 after United edged through a frantic, tempestuous semi-final against Celta Vigo.
Mourinho’s side were made to sweat as Thursday’s 1-1 draw saw them through 2-1 on aggregate, giving the Portuguese the chance to add to this season’s EFL Cup and Community Shield successes.
“In the end, when the game was difficult, when they were better than us and we were in trouble and not playing well, it was that mentality, that desire, that togetherness that made the boys fight until the end,” Mourinho said.
“The final means an opportunity to win a trophy, to be back in the Champions League, and to end the season in the perfect way because it is the last match of the season.”
United will be without a host of key players in Sweden, with Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Ashley Young, Marcos Rojo, Luke Shaw and Tim Fosu-Mensah out for the remainder of the campaign.
Eric Bailly will also sit out the Europa League final after being sent off for raising his hand to John Guidetti shortly after Facundo Roncaglia cancelled out Marouane Fellaini’s header.
Celta goalscorer Roncaglia was also dismissed in a flare-up that frustrated boss Mourinho, who told BT Sport: “I didn’t see the incident, but he was phenomenal.
“The game was emotional until the end for everyone. Some kept control in better ways than others.
“I don’t know but I think it was with Roncaglia, right? Roncaglia’s not new in these kind of situations and probably Eric was a bit naive. We lose a very important player for the final and we don’t have many.”
Considering the absentees and the fact Europa League glory offers silverware and Champions League qualification, Mourinho will again rotate with the final in mind.
Premier League trips to Tottenham and Southampton are followed by Crystal Palace’s visit to Old Trafford – a match the Portuguese has vowed to make “a lot” of changes for.
He explained: “Obviously now Ajax think about the final. Their league finishes on Sunday and they will have 10 days to prepare. We have three league matches to play.
“Hopefully Crystal Palace don’t need (anything from) the last game because I am going to make a lot of changes.
“It doesn’t matter what happens. And nobody can blame us, because we have a final three days later.”