Manchester United midfielder Nemanja Matic believes the team with the strongest mentality will lift the Europa League trophy in 10 days’ time.
The Reds saw off FC Copenhagen in extra-time on Monday amid difficult conditions in Cologne, where temperatures exceeded 30 degrees Celsius long into the night.
While the Serbian admits that it has been a gruelling campaign – the 2019/20 season began exactly a year ago today (11 August) – he feels what’s in the head will play the biggest role in deciding Sunday’s semi-final and, hopefully, the showpiece event the following Friday.
“Yes, I think we are in good condition. Of course the season is long but we knew it before, what we can expect,” Matic told reporters after the final whistle at Stadion Koln,
“and the most important [thing] now is to be mentally ready.”
“Physically I feel we are fine. We are in the same position like every other team so it’s most important that we are mentally ready.
“I think that mental point will decide the semi-final – and final, of course.”
Manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, appearing for the press conference call alongside Matic, agreed with his midfielder and added further vivid detail about just how hot it was pitchside in Germany.
“We’ve worked hard throughout the season,” said the Norwegian.
“We’ve come quite a distance from where we were fitness-wise but, as Nemanja says, mentally, that’s where it’s decided.
“And when you get tired, the opposition is probably more tired and you’ve just got to be mentally strong. [They were] difficult conditions, even for me with my shirt on. I started sweating and my T-shirt is wet, so I’m glad I didn’t have to run out there as much as they did!“
The Reds now await the winners of Tuesday’s quarter-final between Wolves and Sevilla in the final four, with our next game also taking place in Cologne.
While acknowledging that the complex where United are training in Germany isn’t quite up to the standard of Carrington, Ole said it was the same for everyone and also highlighted that his players now have almost a week to prepare for the next test.
“No, we’ll have to watch [the Wolves game] on telly and of course, the facilities are not the same as we’re used to. But that’s no excuse. I think every team has got the same conditions.
“Of course we’re used to having the best facilities around in the world for recovery and preparation. We just have to make the most out of a difficult situation in conditions that are really hot and humid.
“What time do we train? Especially tonight when we have played late so it will be a strange one tomorrow morning for some of them, because they probably won’t sleep for a few hours.
“But we’ve got six days and there are not many times that we’ve got six days to prepare for a game.”