Today the Special One embarks on an attempt to become something that he never imagined he would become. Even in his saddest dreams – the ones that don’t feature Marouane Fellaini – the Special One did not envisage himself having to compete for the right to be called a notable knick-knack amid the bric-à-brac of managers to have led an English club to the Big Vase final. Mr Roy has done it. Schteve McClaren has done it. Even Arsène Wenger has done it. So just imagine how mortified José Mourinho will be if he fails to do it? Why, he’d be so ashamed he’d have to discover new planets just to find enough people to blame.
|He won’t be able to blame the unavailability of Eric Bailly, Chris Smalling, Phil Jones or Paul Pogba, however, because they have all been declared fit enough to start. Not just by the Special One, but by an actual doctor, reportedly.
The team hoping to prevent Manchester United from becoming Big Vase finalists in the grand lineage of Casino Salzburg, Dnipro Dnipropetrovsk and the Pope’s O’Rangers are none other than Celta Vigo, the pride of Vigo. Their main threat is the ex-Liverpool striker Iago Aspas, who has reportedly come good since escaping the Anfield toilet in which he was stuck for two years. There are nine worse teams than Celta in La Liga so they are not to be taken lightly. “How do you beat Manchester United?” implored their manager, Eduardo Berizzo. Then he had a squint at the hacks in front of him and decided he’d best try to answer the question himself. “By being faithful to who we are. I think this team has an identity and they believe in this identity. A lot of pressing, a lot of possession. Believing in a sustained attack. The only way is to be faithful to our identity.”
Sustained attack? A manager who believes in the club’s identity? This tie seems set to be a meeting of contrasts.