Man Utd try to focus on final, but horror ‘affecting players’

Date published: Wednesday 24th May 2017 9:02

Jose Mourinho is determined to lead Manchester United to Europa League glory at a time when hearts and minds are at home with those affected by Monday’s terrorist attack.

Football seems trivial as Manchester reels from the explosion that rocked the city’s arena at the end of a concert by pop star Ariana Grande.

Greater Manchester Police have confirmed 22 people were killed, including an eight-year-old girl, and 59 injured in the bomb attack.

United held a minute’s silence at training before flying to Sweden on Tuesday, where UEFA granted their request to cancel their press conference ahead of the Europa League final.

The Islamic State terror group claimed responsibility for a bombing that United manager Mourinho says dominates their thoughts ahead of what has been billed as a make-or-break clash with Ajax in Stockholm.

“We are all very sad about the tragic events last night. We cannot take out of our minds and our hearts the victims and their families,” the Portuguese said.

“We have a job to do and we will fly to Sweden to do that job. It is a pity we cannot fly with the happiness that we always have before a big game.

“I know, even during my short time here, that the people of Manchester will pull together as one.”

Mourinho led the team on a walk around the Friends Arena pitch upon arriving in Sweden and it is unclear how United’s players and staff have been impacted by the explosion.

Many of the squad took to social media to express their sympathy and solidarity after the attack.

United captain Wayne Rooney posted on Twitter: “Devastating news this morning. Thoughts and prayers are with all those affected.”

Daley Blind said he “can’t believe what happened” and goalkeeper David De Gea expressed “much rage, much pain”, with winger Jesse Lingard saying “this beautiful city” will “stand together in this dark hour”.

United have confirmed the players will wear black armbands as a mark of respect on Wednesday, with a minute’s silence to be held before the final.

The mood was understandably sombre around the club ahead of the final, with executive vice-chairman Ed Woodward opening up to MUTV about the fallout to Monday’s attack.

“Words don’t really do justice for how we all feel,” he said. “We’re numb.

“The events were sickening and all our thoughts at the moment are with the victims and the families affected by it.

“It was very sombre flying over with the directors this morning and it was all we were talking about, to be honest.

“We’ve met with UEFA and sat with them and gone through different things we can do around the game, and they accepted we can wear black armbands and have a minute’s silence for the victims.”

Ed Woodward: Still backed by United?

Asked what impact it has had on Manchester United’s preparations, Woodward added: “We’ve got a job to do (on Wednesday), no question about that, and that hasn’t been changed. But I think what happened last night really put things into perspective.

“Success on the pitch really is nothing compared to the pain and suffering going on back home, that is really where our thoughts are at this point in time.”

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