Her­rera be­lieves fans can fire United to Europa League fi­nal

New Straits Times - - Sport -

AN­DER Her­rera wants Manch­ester United sup­port­ers to turn Old Traf­ford into a caul­dron when his side look to com­plete vic­tory over Celta Vigo in to­day’s Europa League semi-fi­nal re­turn leg.

Mar­cus Rash­ford’s sweet sec­ond-half free-kick brought United a 1-0 win in last week’s first leg, putting Jose Mour­inho’s side within touch­ing dis­tance of the fi­nal in Stock­holm on May 24.

But although United have gone 17 Euro­pean home games with­out de­feat, Celta have scored in all six of their Europa League away matches this sea­son and Her­rera says ev­ery­one in United red will have to be on their game.

“They have scored away in ev­ery game they’ve played in the com­pe­ti­tion so we have to be aware of that,” the Span­ish mid­fielder said.

“They are a very good team, very dan­ger­ous when they play away and we will need our fans at home.

“I tell them we re­ally need them to cre­ate a good at­mos­phere, a dif­fi­cult at­mos­phere for the op­po­nents, who can push us to be in the fi­nal. It’s not go­ing to be easy.”

United have never won the Europa League and are bid­ding to reach a first con­ti­nen­tal fi­nal since their 3-1 loss to Barcelona at Wem­b­ley in the de­cid­ing match of the 2010-11 Cham­pi­ons League.

But while suc­cess in Europe’s sec­ond-tier com­pe­ti­tion will com­plete United’s col­lec­tion of tro­phies, what mo­ti­vates them above all is the place in next sea­son’s Cham­pi­ons League that Europa League suc­cess will yield.

Mour­inho has openly aban­doned United’s hopes of se­cur­ing the top-four fin­ish in the Premier League that would open the door to the Cham­pi­ons League.

He made eight changes to his start­ing XI for last Sun­day’s 2-0 de­feat at Arse­nal, which brought an end to United’s 25-game un­beaten run in the league and left them four points be­low fourth­place Manch­ester City.

Eric Bailly, Da­ley Blind, An­to­nio Va­len­cia, Paul Pogba and Rash­ford are among the play­ers ex­pected to re­turn for United to­day.

Celta need not look far for in­spi­ra­tion, hav­ing over­come a 1-0 home de­feat against Shakhtar Donetsk to pre­vail 2-1 on ag­gre­gate in the last 32.

They can also call upon cup pedi­gree that saw them over­come Real Madrid in the quar­ter­fi­nals of this sea­son’s King’s Cup, a year af­ter they had ac­counted for Atletico Madrid at the same stage of the tour­na­ment.

“It is still close,” said Celta striker John Guidetti, who was for­merly on the books of United’s cross-town ri­vals City.

“It is half-time. They are lead­ing 1-0 and we have to go out and make the sec­ond half count.

“At the end of the day, if we go to Old Traf­ford and score the first goal, we are in the driv­ing seat be­cause if we score an­other one, they have to score two.”

Celta’s Europa League com­mit­ments have had a strik­ing im­pact on their league form, largely due to coach Eduardo Ber­izzo’s de­ter­mi­na­tion to rest play­ers.

Their 3-0 de­feat at Malaga last week­end was their sixth loss in seven La Liga out­ings and they have won only two of their last 10 games in all com­pe­ti­tions.

Peter Bosz’s daz­zling young Ajax team are likely to be await­ing the vic­tors in the fi­nal, hav­ing beat Lyon 4-1 in the home leg of their semi-fi­nal.

But Lyon have av­er­aged over four goals per game in their Europa League home matches and coach Bruno Ge­n­e­sio be­lieves his side’s 3-2 vic­tory over Nantes on Sun­day showed they are ca­pa­ble of pulling off a fa­mous come­back.

“There’s an hour and a half to over­come our deficit,” he said.

“We’ll have to cre­ate chances and take them, but also re­main calm and or­gan­ised when we lose the ball.

“We have to re­mem­ber that we scored three goals. And if we score three on Thursday, we could go through.” AFP

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