Manchester United won the UEFA Europa League on Wednesday night, and dedicated the win to the victims of the Manchester Arena terrorist attack.
United’s 2-0 win over Ajax, courtesy of goals from Paul Pogba and Henrikh Mkhitaryan, came just two days after an attack at the city’s Arena during an Ariana Grande concert which has left 22 dead and many more injured. It was therefore in extremely difficult circumstances in which the players took to the field in Stockholm, and the club dedicated their win to the fallen.
“We had to prepare ourselves to do our job and try to forget events that are obviously much bigger than our job,” said manager Jose Mourinho. “But the world goes on. It doesn’t stop and we have to do our work. The players did really well. I agreed with the decision to play the game, but if we could exchange these lives we would do it immediately. We wouldn’t think twice.”
Pogba, whose deflected shot gave the Reds an 18th minute lead, said: “We played for the people who died.” Marcus Rashford, the young Manchester-born striker, said the win was “for you, Manchester,” and midfielder Juan Mata said he and his team-mates “focused on the game and to win and to lift the spirit of the town at least for some hours – and we feel proud of that.”
Mata’s compatriot Ander Herrera, now an integral part of Mourinho’s side, said: “I want to dedicate this trophy to the victims. What happened two days ago was horrible. Yesterday morning we were devastated. It was difficult to train. We are just football players. This happened in Manchester but everywhere we want to see a united world and fight for peace.”
Wayne Rooney has donated £100,000 through his foundation to help families of the victims, and said: “There are moments in life that instantly affect you and stop you in your tracks. Monday night was one of those occasions. Like so many others, I have enjoyed great nights at the arena, often with my family. As a father, I am horrified that a night out for so many young people could end so tragically.”
You can donate via Rooney’s foundation here: http://www.officialwaynerooney.com/foundation/
Meanwhile, United and City have revealed they will contribute a combined £1million to the ‘We Love Manchester Emergency Fund,’ details of which can be found here: https://www.justgiving.com/campaigns/charity/redcross/manchesteremergencyfund