Manchester United gave its grieving home city a moment to cheer by winning the Europa League on Wednesday, beating Ajax 2-0 in the final thanks to goals by Paul Pogba and Henrikh Mkhitaryan.
Pogba pointed to the sky as he was mobbed by teammates after his 18th-minute opening goal. The game was played two days after 22 people were killed in a bomb attack at a concert in Manchester, and 12 days after the death of Pogba’s father, Fassou Antoine.
Mkhitaryan scored the second goal in the 48th minute, hooking the ball in from close range from a corner.
The win earned United the bonus prize of a place in next season’s Champions League and meant coach Jose Mourinho finished his first season at England’s biggest club with two trophies. United also won the English League Cup in February.
United’s players flew to Sweden in sombre mood and with heavy hearts following the tragedy at an Ariana Grande concert on Monday, and were determined to produce a display that served as a tribute to the victims and their families.
That they succeeded in doing so was a testament to their strength of character.
“Yesterday morning, we were devastated,” United midfielder Ander Herrera said, dedicating the win to the victims, “… but the manager told us the only thing we could do was to win this for them. That’s what we’ve done. It’s just a football game, just a trophy, but if we can support them with this just 1 per cent, it’s enough for us.”
Mourinho said his players “put a wall in front of their eyes” to get through the match.
“If we could, we’d change obviously the peoples’ lives for this cup. We wouldn’t think twice,” Mourinho said. “Does this cup make the city of Manchester a little bit happier? Maybe.”
The planned pre-match one…