“The importance 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 this is an enormous game for United.”

Yorke of course played a major role in that unforgettable season, a near-perfect sweeping of the board that instantly placed Sir Alex Ferguson in the pantheon of all-time great managers and alongside Sir Matt Busy as the best Manchester United boss of them all. Yet so crucial is this Wednesday’s game that the former striker believes victory will elevate Jose Mourinho into such esteemed company.

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“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?“

There are some United supporters however that could well reply with ‘quite a lot actually’ to that particular query after the 13 times Premier League champions limped home in sixth place last weekend. Altogether it’s been a distinctly hit-and-miss season for Mourinho’s men, a mixture of frustration and fantastic feats best epitomised by their £89m record signing Paul Pogba who has, by turns, been impressive and disappointing.

“He is still finding his feet and even though he came for that enormous amount of money we knew he was never going to be a Ronaldo or a Messi or a Paul Scholes. We have to remember that he’s still only 24 so he’s still at that development stage and next season he will learn from all this and take on the tag of being the world’s most expensive player. That role will grow on him and he will improve and make us a better team. The jury is still out but he will produce an awful lot for Manchester United in the years to come.”

One star Yorke has no such reservations about is United’s teenage sensation Marcus Rashford who the Trinidad and Tobago legend claims is destined to one day fill some very big boots and become the king of Old Trafford.

“He has burst onto the scene and is emerging from the shadow of Zlatan. Zlatan was only going to be here for a short amount of time but Rashford would have learned from him and there’s no doubt in my mind that he will be the main man eventually: whether that is next season or the season after because we have to remember that he’s still young and at that development stage. I expect him to play more regularly next season because he’s a threat and he’s a goal-scorer. When you see what the likes of Rooney has achieved he will be in that category without a doubt though he’s more in the Andy Cole mould in that he likes to get into the box and run past defenders.”

Speaking of Rooney speculation continues to be rife on his future at Manchester United with fresh reports emerging this week that Wednesday’s final might be his swansong after thirteen years at the club. Yorke admits the headline-making departure would hardly be a surprise.

“Being a squad player is all well and good but when you’ve been enjoying playing for so long it’s time to move on. I’m sure Wazza will figure that out, maybe go on holiday before discussing it with his advisors and come to the right conclusion. I’m sure he still has a part to play but who wants to be a part-time player? Anybody who has been in that situation will tell him that it’s best to move on.” 

With one full season in charge and his expensive loafers firmly under the desk Jose Mourinho is expected to be extremely busy this summer overhauling a squad in patent need of improvement. The question persists though: Should his side fail to beat Ajax in Stockholm will the Reds have the pulling power to lure the calibre of players that are presumably jotted on Jose’s shopping list?

“United have done it before bringing in Pogba and Zlatan 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 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.”

And who would Yorke – who has made no secret of his managerial aspirations – like to see in an Old Trafford suite putting pen to paper before next season begins? 

“If I was Manchester United manager I’d go and get Kylian Mbappe, the young kid at Monaco. Second favourite I’d go for Lukaku. Those are the two I’d look at. Then Griezmann or Gareth Bale or someone of that stature. Once we’ve got Champions League those are the best and certainly that Mbappe kid. Him and Rashford would run riot. You’d just let them play.”

While that is certainly an exciting proposition for the Stretford End faithful to contemplate there is always a yang to the yin with several players rumoured to be heading for the exit door in the months ahead. Here Yorke turns uncharacteristically coy. Sort of.

“There are players there who I would definitely get rid of but I work for the club and I’m an ambassador for the club so I don’t really want to start pointing fingers. But it’s fair to say if you’re a football fan and you know football you know exactly who there are.”


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