Jose Mourinho insists his first season at Manchester United will not be a failure if they do not win the Europa League, although he accepts that others may argue differently.
United scraped into the final of the competition after a 1-1 draw with Celta Vigo at Old Trafford on Thursday, a result that secured a 2-1 aggregate victory in the semi-final.
Beating Ajax in the showpiece in Stockholm will see United end the campaign with triumphs in the Community Shield, EFL Cup and Europa League, as well as earning a place in the group stage of next season's Champions League.
However, despite a 25-match unbeaten run in the Premier League, their inconsistent form has left them sixth in the top flight with three games to play, while Thursday's draw was their 11th at home in all competitions this term – a sequence of results that has drawn plenty of criticism from fans and the media.
Defeat on May 24 would further discredit Mourinho's efforts in his first year in the north west, but the 54-year-old – who is the first United boss to win a major trophy in his debut season – says he and the club are content after a year in which he has "worked harder than ever".
Asked if failing to win the Europa League would make the season a failure, he replied: "I think, by you media, you have the right to say it and I think it makes sense.
"But I don't feel like that. I don't want the players to feel like that. I don't think the board feels like that. Because we work very hard. I probably worked harder than ever this season.
"So I don't think that way, but if I was on your side, in your chair… yeah [it's fair]. We won the EFL Cup, the Community Shield, until the injuries arrived we fought for the Premier League top four. We had a fantastic record of 25 matches [unbeaten], we did things that nobody did at this club in the first season, like winning a trophy.
"You are always looking for this kind of capital letters, big headlines. I accept that you say that."
Jose Mourinho on Ajax v in the final: "Two monsters. The history of the clubs - amazing." May 11, 2017
When asked what the reason is for his need to work so hard, he said: "The players and the club. Sometimes, you get into big clubs in difficult moments and the work is harder than when you get to smaller clubs in a moment of positive explosion.
"A very hard season. Some invisible work, at your eyes, but when I analyse my work, I know better than anyone what I had to do. But I accept at your eyes, it's the football results that make that decision."
United travel to Tottenham on Sunday and are expected to field a weakened side following their exploits against a spirited Celta side.
Mourinho made a number of changes for the 2-0 defeat to Arsenal last weekend and he plans to do the same in their final three matches against Spurs, Southampton and Crystal Palace in order to rest his key players as much as possible.
"I have to give some minutes to everyone because we have only 15 players, we don't have more," he said. "So I have to play them but I have to play them mixed, in periods. I don't have another solution.
"In the Premier League, we can only finish fifth or sixth, I think. But we can win a trophy and by winning that trophy we can play Champions League next season, so that's the game.
"But, like we did against Arsenal, we didn't throw the match away, we tried to win, we gave a difficult match to our opponent, we had our chances to get a different result and that's what we are going to do.
"We don't want to say matches are not important, but we have one that is more important than the others."
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