Man Utd faces Celta Vigo in Europa semis
Man Utd faces Celta Vigo in Europa semis
Jose Mourinho's United will be strong favourites and have the advantage of playing the second leg at Old Trafford as they attempt to lift the Europa League, knowing victory in the final would give them a place in next season's Champions League.
United will travel to Spain for the first leg on May 4 before Celta visit Manchester for the return on May 11.
With United currently four points outside the Premier League top four, winning the Europa League for the first time may represent their best chance of qualifying for the Champions League.
Celta sit 10th in La Liga and progressed from the quarterfinals after following up a 3-2 home win against Genk by drawing Thursday's second leg 1-1 in Belgium.
United have never faced Celta in UEFA competition and the Spanish side are through to a major European semifinal for the first time in their history.
As England's final European representatives this season, United were made to sweat by Anderlecht in the quarterfinal second leg on Thursday.
Marcus Rashford's extra-time goal sealed a 2-1 win at Old Trafford that sent United through 3-2 on aggregate.
If United make it to the final in Stockholm's Friends Arena on May 24 it will be the club's first appearance in the decisive match of Europe's second-tier tournament.
It would also be United's first European final since they lost the 2011 Champions League decider against Barcelona at Wembley.
Why even the #WengerOut brigade should lament Arsene Wenger's exit from Arsenal
- The Frenchman revolutionised the game in England across all leagues, not just the Premier League.
- After initial success he found the going tough in the second half of his reign, but will still go down as an all-time great.
Over the past few seasons it has been fashionable to view Arsene Wenger as some sort of figure of fun — a man living in the past, left behind by the modern game, but too stubborn to realize it.
In time, though, even the most ardent, frothing-at-the-mouth #Wenger Out believer would have to agree that the Frenchman will go down not just as one of the best managers Arsenal have had, but also among the greatest in English club football.
As with any caricature, there is a hint of truth in the picture created, crude as it sometimes is. Yes, Wenger’s past few years at the Emirates have been painful to watch. Yes, he was stubborn when it came to both activity in the transfer market and belief in his methods and tactics. Yes, it is fair to say he leaves the club, on the pitch at least, in a bit of a mess. And, yes, he should have left two or three years ago.
But if there is one thing that any sane fan should remember about Wenger’s 22 years as Arsenal boss, it is this: He was a game-changer, a manager who oversaw not only a revolution of the Gunners, but also of the English game.
As soon as Wenger landed in England in 1996, he banished Arsenal’s Tuesday drinking club and munching of Mars bars — in their place came stretching sessions and broccoli. Hardly profound or radical in today’s game, but this was the era when change in English football invariably meant no pies and pints on a Friday night.
The technical, passing, possession football that is now the norm for any side with ambitions to remain in the Premier League, let alone win it, and the idea that eating vegetables rather than a tub of lard would help player performance, were brought in by Wenger alone.
He won the double in his first full season in charge, signed unheralded foreign talent such as Emmanuel Petit and Patrick Viera — who went on to become world-class players — and created teams that were a joy to watch, culminating with “The Invincibles” of 2003-04, who won the Premier League without losing a match.
The irony is that the one-time revolutionary ended up being viewed as a throwback, a stuck-in-the-mud anachronism; a manager who harked back to a time when playing with the owner’s chequebook was not seen as the only path to success and when paragraphs were favored over 140 characters.
And that perhaps explains why so many Arsenal fans seemingly wanted him gone: Wenger is not of the Twitter generation, of instant opinions for the 24-hour news agenda and of hype over humility. The man who was once seen as the future stuck to principles that were deemed as belonging to the past.
It is clear there is a lot of bad blood at the club — a ridiculous Facebook post by an Arsenal fan claimed Wenger’s announcement he was leaving made it the “greatest day in Arsenal’s history.”
But for all the bluster and nonsense, Wenger’s legacy will be that of “The Invincibles” — one of the greatest club sides of modern times; of beautiful football played at pace and with artistry; of being a decent, yet flawed, man who was never anything but articulate and courteous.
Having been in charge of Arsenal for 22 years, he is undoubtedly the last of a kind, and in the era of trigger-happy owners, short-term fixes and sensationalism over stability, that is something everyone, even the #WengerOut brigade, should lament.