Dwight Yorke: Europa League final as important as 1999; Champions League needed for Griezmann

Former Manchester United striker and treble winner Dwight Yorke has spoken about the importance of the Red Devils Europa League final in Stockholm this evening. The former Trinidad and Tobago international believes this match, despite playing for the lesser of the two major European honours is just as important as United’s UEFA Champions League final back in 1999. United won the treble that year – the first English club to achieve that. This season it is all very different. United have fallen short, again, in the Premier League, failed to earn European football from their final place in the league, relying on their Europa League status from winning the EFL Cup back in February – if they fail to beat Ajax in Sweden tonight, that is. Yorke, speaking exclusively to 888sport, said:

“They have fallen short in the Premier League, there is no two ways about that, and this is an enormous game for United. The important of it is just beyond as it will set the club up going forward to bring in the best players and that’s something they need to do. United have gone three seasons now without winning the league and for a club of Manchester United’s standards that is just not acceptable at all and considering the money they have spent this season to not end up in the Champions League will be absolutely disastrous.

“It’s as important as the ’99 final but for different reasons. We were creating history, to do something at the club nobody had been able to do. But in terms of laying down the foundations moving forward for this club that has not done anything meaningful in the Champions League for three seasons and to see the likes of Liverpool and Spurs in the Champions League and not Manchester United would be absolutely disastrous.”

Yorke also suggests that United manager Jose Mourinho will be classed a great if he wins the Europa League tonight. Ajax are no easy team to beat, especially now with their own resurgence of young talented players which has seen them cast aside all opposition in the competition this season, with United possibly their next challenge. United cast aside their opposition too, so this will boil down to who wants the victory the most, with United being inspired by the terrible terrorist attack in Manchester on Monday evening, which should make the team want to bring that trophy home and dedicate it to the city of Manchester. Yorke said:

“We’re talking about two teams who are known for their brand of football and Ajax over the years have produced very good teams but United should be odds on favourites. Ajax are obviously a very good side because you don’t reach a European final if you’re not and United will need to find a good rhythm. Unfortunately that is something we’ve struggled to do at this point.

“Ajax are a young team with not a lot to lose while Manchester United have much more to lose. So the pressure will be on United to produce the goods and play good football but I don’t think this game is about good football – it’s about winning on the day no matter how. If they do then Jose Mourinho will go down as one of the greats because he can say ‘Listen, I’ve won two cups and qualified for the Champions League. What more can I do?’”

Yorke also believes that United will need the Champions League to sign the likes of Antoine Griezmann and Toni Kroos this summer. That might be true with those players, who will want to play at the top level in European competitions, which is something which seems to be the case for Griezmann. As for the German midfielder, Kroos, he’s not linked to United, despite him being many fans wish signing for the summer, to replace Michael Carrick and help United strengthen the midfield so the likes of Paul Pogba and Ander Herrera can unlock their potential at the club. I agree that the Champions League is the biting point for players to come to a club, but with so many signed without United participating in the competition, the lure of the club could be enough, for some at least. Yorke said:

“United have done it before bringing in Paul Pogba and Zlatan Ibrahimovic without the Champions League and that is all well and good but we’ve been playing catch up now for three seasons and there is a need to bring in quality players like Toni Kroos and Antoine Griezmann. There is no question that if we’re not in the Champions League other clubs will be able to attract them quicker than us but we just have to go about our business. If we’re in the Champions League we know that attracting players to Manchester United has never been an issue.”

Read the full 888sport interview with Dwight Yorke, including his thoughts on how a Europa League win would make Mourinho a United great.

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