Jose Mourinho admits first season at Manchester United will be a failure if they don't win the Europa League

He admitted that if he worked in the media, he would be critical of himself if his side didn't win it

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The Independent Football

He may have taken Manchester United to two cup finals but Jose Mourinho admitted that, unless the Europa League is won, his first season at Old Trafford could be counted a failure.

After a semi-final victory against Celta Vigo that was far tighter and more nervous than anyone imagined, the United manager confessed that were he a journalist, he would be critical if the club failed to overcome Ajax in the final in Stockholm.

“You the media, you have the right to say it,” said Mourinho when asked if Manchester United had to win the Europa League to be judged a success. “I think it makes sense to say it. But I don’t feel like that. I don’t want the players to feel like that. I don’t think the board feels like that.

“We have worked very hard. I have probably worked this season harder than ever. When I analyse I don’t think that way but, if I were in your chair, then maybe.

“We won a League Cup, we won a Community Shield, then the injuries arrived and we fought for the Premier League top four. We had a fantastic record of 25 unbeaten matches.

“We did things at this club that nobody has done in their first season – like winning a trophy, like having the unbeaten record for Manchester United in the Premier League, like reaching a European final. We have these things.

“But, if I were on your side – and you are always looking for these kinds of capital letters and big headlines – then I would accept it, if you said it.”

Mourinho was right to say that no Manchester United manager had won a trophy in his first season. However, in terms of the basic requirement of a Manchester United manager – to ensure that the world’s biggest football brand finishes in the top four of its own league – he has disappointed.

Sir Alex Ferguson finished second in his first full season at Old Trafford; Ron Atkinson took Manchester United to third in his. Louis van Gaal qualified the club for the Champions League.

Mourinho was visibly relieved at the final whistle as United held on (Getty)

Mourinho’s unbeaten run from October to May was more of a jog, clogged by draws against teams who once considered themselves beaten in Old Trafford’s tunnel.

The draw with Celta Vigo was United’s 11th at home and had Manchester City’s one-time forward, John Guidetti, not fluffed his shot at the climax, the little club from the wild coast of northern Spain would have gone through on the away goals rule.

As it is, Manchester United will take the same kind of weakened team into their final game at White Hart Lane as they did when facing Arsenal last Sunday.

Eric Bailly, suspended for the Europa League final because of his fisticuffs with Celta’s goalscorer, Facundo Roncaglia, will play the three remaining league games. Mourinho confirmed that Sergio Romero will start in goal against Ajax in Sweden.

After 14 matches, Mourinho was right to argue that Manchester United should be proud of reaching the Europa League final against an Ajax side that will have 10 days to prepare. United will have two.

Amid the triumph, it may have been churlish to point out that nine years ago Bayern Munich reached a Uefa Cup semi-final and regained the Bundesliga by 10 points. That was the sort of performance a club of Manchester United’s size ought to have aimed for. Mourinho, however, was just grateful he could see the finish line.

“I just feel sorry that my boys have to go to their national teams after the final,” he said. “These guys should go to a spa after almost 70 matches.”