Where are they now? The last Man Utd side to win a trophy from 2017
Manchester United are renowned for their success – domestically and in Europe – but their Europa League triumph against Ajax in May 2017 was the last time the club lifted silverware. But what’s happened to the winning XI since?
Mourinho’s impact at Old Trafford was not what he or United supporters anticipated, as he failed to end the club’s inability to return to title-winning ways after Sir Alex Ferguson’s 27-year reign.
But with the Red Devils still some way off challenging for major honours, maybe the Portuguese overseeing a win in Stockholm was more impressive than initially credited.
The former Chelsea manager prioritised cup success in the 2016-17 campaign, winning the League Cup before his team defeated Ajax 2-0 in the showpiece European final.
We’ve taken a look back at the side that secured United the Europa League trophy against the Dutch giants.
GK: Sergio Romero
Having been a consistent feature in United’s Europa League campaign that season, Mourinho kept faith in the Argentina international for the final – David de Gea was the goalkeeper warming the bench.
The decision was justified as Romero kept a clean sheet against Hakim Ziyech and co. But Argentina’s all-time most capped goalkeeper didn’t see his career blossom in the preceding four years of his United stay.
Limited to sporadic appearances under Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, the 35-year-old was released in 2021 after slipping to third choice in the pecking order behind Dean Henderson.
“It was a strange year for me, but I trained all year at Manchester United. Some days I was training by myself, because the squad was preparing for a game,” Romero said, describing the end of his six-year spell in Manchester.
He’s now back in Argentina with Boca Juniors.
RB: Antonio Valencia
Valencia was one of Mourinho’s most trusted lieutenants at United until he fell out of favour in the Portuguese’s last season at the helm; he even made him club captain before the bitter end.
“I could not believe I was being given the chance to be captain of a club like Manchester United. I was incredibly happy to take that responsibility,” Valencia said.
Victory in Stockholm marked Valencia’s eighth trophy in a United shirt before he left and saw out the final two years of his career in his homeland and Mexico.
READ: An ode to Antonio Valencia, the winger turned world-class right-back
CB: Chris Smalling
After Mourinho’s predecessor Louis Van Gaal famously got his name wrong in a press conference – mistakenly calling him ‘Mike’ Smalling, he may have hoped that would be the last of any embarrassing moments inflicted by United managers at his expense.
But Mourinho delivered another following the Ajax victory – perhaps more confidence-sapping than embarrassing in all truth.
“I even joked with Smalling – ‘With your feet, we’re for sure not playing out from the back! That’s where we won the game,” Mourinho said.
Later in the Portuguese manager’s tenure, he criticised Smalling for an unwillingness to play through injury.
Both are now reunited at Roma. Smalling is a regular starter in Italy which suggests their relationship has improved – time’s a great healer, after all.
CB: Daley Blind
Blind joined United in 2014 from Ajax after being signed by his compatriot Van Gaal. Beating his former employers in the final was his finest act at Old Trafford before he returned to his boyhood club for a second spell four years ago.
Now at Bayern Munich, it’s just fantastic to see Blind still playing football; the Dutch international was diagnosed with a heart problem after feeling dizzy during a Champions League tie against Valencia in 2019.
LB: Matteo Darmian
The Italian defender was used as a utility man throughout Mourinho’s reign. He received plaudits for his solid defensive display against Ajax operating on his unfavoured left-hand side.
Darmian currently plays for Inter Milan after returning to Italy following four years at Old Trafford between 2015 and 2019. He’s celebrated a trophy more recently than his former side, having helped Inter win the Scudetto in 2021.
The winning streak looks set to continue for Inter! 🔵⚫
Matteo Darmian gets the breakthrough, Conte runs on to the pitch to celebrate, and they move another step closer to Scudetto glory 🔥 pic.twitter.com/fg0ubOUZhD
— Watch Rangers v Celtic live on Viaplay 🏆 (@ViaplaySportsUK) April 11, 2021
CM: Ander Herrera
Herrera had all the characteristics Mourinho loves – an aggressive, win-at-all-costs attitude. So it’s little surprise he selected him from the outset for the Europa League final.
If the Spaniard was fit, you could almost guarantee the current Roma boss would pick him for the decisive matches. We all remember Herrera doing an excellent man-for-man job to mark Eden Hazard out of games between United and Chelsea.
Herrera later moved to PSG. His industrious approach wasn’t appreciated quite as much in Paris as it was in Manchester and, after having his contract terminated, rejoined boyhood club Atheltic Bilbao.
CM: Paul Pogba
It’s no secret that Pogba’s United career hasn’t lived up to expectations – his departure this summer was unmourned by Old Trafford regulars – but the World Cup winner set the Red Devils on their way to victory in Stockholm netting an 18th-minute opener.
Even if he didn’t always see eye-to-eye with Mourinho, he certainly delivered in Stockholm. Now, Pogba has yet to play for Juventus after his summer move because of an knee injury. He also missed France’s 2022 World Cup defence.
READ: ‘Self-important tripe’: 10 of the most brutal reviews of Paul Pogba’s doc
CM: Marouane Fellaini
“Even if you have earned money during your career, sometimes you also have to think about your future,” these were the words of the Belgium international when he left Old Trafford to join Shandong Luneng in 2019.
Few could begrudge Fellaini for his reasoning; he wasn’t exactly a fan favourite with United fans.
But the midfielder was reborn under Mourinho, and that’s why he was trusted to start in the biggest game of the 2016-17 season. Despite his limitations, Fellaini was pivotal in the double-winning team five years ago.
RM: Juan Mata (Wayne Rooney, ‘90)
Like a few in this line-up, Mata’s relationship with the Portuguese was called into question on occasion, mainly due to Mourinho allowing Mata to leave Chelsea for Old Trafford for a then club-record £37.1 million fee in 2014.
But the former Spain international became a cult hero at Old Trafford before leaving this summer. He’s now turning out for Turkish side Galatasary.
Rooney made a fleeting appearance as a substitute in the final. The Europa League win added to an already sizable trophy haul for England’s record goal-scorer.
He’s now in the infancy of his managerial career, managing MLS side DC United after two years of struggle with Derby County.
LM: Henrikh Mkhitaryan (Jesse Lingard, ’74)
Mkhitaryan’s standout performance for United came in this final. He scored the decisive second goal in the match to end hopes of an Ajax comeback.
The first Armenian to play in the Premier League was used as part of a swap deal with Alexis Sanchez in 2018, seeing Mkhitaryan move to Arsenal – a move which didn’t go to plan for either party.
Like Smalling, the winger went on to turn out for Roma was a key figure in Mourinho’s team as they won the inaugural Europa Conference League last term. He’s since moved to Inter.
Lingard was used as a late substitute by Mourinho to protect United’s lead. As has been the case for most of the midfielder’s career, he couldn’t cement a place in the starting XI consistently under the Portuguese coach and is now at Nottingham Forest.
🔴 @ManUtd beat Ajax 2-0 to win the Europa League, #OTD in 2017! 🏆
Winners again on Wednesday? 🤔#UELfinal | #UEL pic.twitter.com/EEit8hTTEN
— UEFA Europa League (@EuropaLeague) May 24, 2021
ST: Marcus Rashford (Anthony Martial, ’84)
Rashford racked up more appearances and minutes for Mourinho than any other United outfield player during his tenure. For a manager who is viewed as not giving youth a chance, Mourinho had plenty of time for the England international.
“My time under Jose was a massive learning period for me and I feel like I understood football in a different way to what I understood football before that,” Rashford told Sky Sports about his period with Mourinho.
The forward is now the hottest striker in Europe after scoring 13 times in his last 15 appearances for United.
Martial failed to fit the bill for Mourinho. When he fired in a Henry-esque goal on his Red Devils debut against Liverpool in 2015 – sending Martin Tyler into pandemonium on commentary duty – his career hasn’t progressed in the manner expected since.
He remains at Old Trafford after an underwhelming loan spell at Sevilla last season but the jury remains out on his long-term future.
READ MORE: 13 players Jose Mourinho missed out on as Manchester United manager
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