Football

Mourinho puts success down to meticulous preparation

United boss says win is 'last piece of the puzzle' as they join elite group to have won all major Uefa trophies

Manchester United finished the season on a high note by winning the Europa League because the club meticulously study their opponents before big games, manager Jose Mourinho said after a 2-0 victory over Ajax Amsterdam in Thursday morning's (Singapore time) final.

Goals from Paul Pogba and Henrikh Mkhitaryan secured United's first continental trophy in nine years, ensuring Champions League football returns to Old Trafford.

Europa League glory also means United join Ajax, Bayern Munich and Juventus as the only clubs to have won all three major Uefa club trophies, including the now-defunct European Cup Winners' Cup, as well as the Club World Cup or the Intercontinental Cup.

Mourinho said their success was down to them doing their homework.

He said: "I respect and study opponents. I try to make my players respect the opponents' strengths and also to understand their weaknesses.

"This is the most important trophy of my career because it's the last (in line) and the last one is always the most important. That's the way I look at things.

"It means everything for the team. It means going back to the Champions League and playing in the European Super Cup next August.

EUROPA LEAGUE SUCCESS DEDICATED TO VICTIMS OF THE MANCHESTER ATTACK

I am happy, but I want to dedicate this trophy to the victims. This is just football, but what happened two days ago was horrible. We want peace in the world - a normal world with respect... It was difficult to train yesterday, but the manager told us the only thing we could do is win this for them and that is what we have done. It is just a football game and a trophy but, if we can help and support with this just one per cent, it is enough for us.

Man United midfielder Ander Herrera
Tonight was more important than sport... Yes a big night for Manchester United, but an even bigger night for the city and for our country... At a time when we are grieving for the families who have lost loved ones, we have a sport that has brought a little happiness at a difficult time... We pray for peace. Former Man United star David Beckham
We know that things like this are very sad, all over the world: in Manchester, in London and in Paris, too. We had to focus because it was a very important game and we won for them and for the country. We played for England, we played for Manchester, and we played for the people who died. Midfielder Paul Pogba
It was a very difficult week for a lot of us and for the city of Manchester and we tried to win for all the people who have suffered. This trophy is for them. Midfielder Juan Mata

DETAILED PLANNING

"It means for the club the last piece of the puzzle. It is now like Ajax and some other clubs - a club with every trophy in the world of football.

"So, it means a lot for me, it means a lot for the club, for the boys and for the supporters too, I believe."

Midfielder Juan Mata, who had a frosty relationship with Mourinho at Chelsea and left within six months of the Portuguese coach returning to the Blues, also praised his manager's detailed planning for the game.

He said: "Mourinho hates losing, during the week he tried to motivate the team as well as he could, focusing on not committing any errors.

"We didn't make any mistakes and we played well.

"It was all or nothing and, as we won, it's fair to say it's been a good season, three trophies, we're in the Champions League next season so we're very happy.

"We defended well, we scored in important moments, we showed how to play a final.

"We left the best until last, it was all or nothing.

"If we'd lost and not got into the Champions League, the fans and directors wouldn't have been happy.

"But if you'd told us at the start of the season we'd win three trophies and be in the Champions League, we would have taken it."

Meanwhile, Mourinho also commended his players for their ability to block their minds from Monday's suicide bombing at a pop concert in Manchester that left 22 people dead and 64 injured to focus on their biggest game of the season.

He said: "When you go into big matches, you go happy and we didn't.

"The boys were fantastic because they built a wall in front of their eyes and isolated themselves from everything to stay focused on the football match.

WORLD GOES ON

"Yesterday, we didn't want to have the press conference because we had to prepare ourselves to do our job and to try to forget events which are much more important than our job," he added, referring to the decision to cancel the press meet to preview the final.

"But the world goes on, it doesn't stop. I agree with the Uefa decision to play the match but, obviously, the tragedy that occurred takes some of the happiness from our achievement.

"If we could, we would exchange the cup for people's lives. We wouldn't think twice." - WIRE SERVICES

EUROPA LEAGUEManchester UnitedJose Mourinho