James: It would mean the world to play
Manchester United winger Daniel James admits he is excited by the prospect of being involved in the Europa League final, potentially the biggest game of his career to date.
The Wales international is hoping to face Villarreal in Gdansk in the 20:00 BST kick-off as the Reds chase a first piece of silverware of Ole Gunnar Solskjaer's reign as manager.
After starting the 2-1 win at Wolves at the weekend, and setting up Anthony Elanga's opener with a superb cross, the 23-year-old has proved his fitness after a recent injury lay-off.
Here is our exclusive interview with Stewart Gardner at the Aon Training Complex before the flight to Poland...
Dan, first of all, what would it mean for you to play in a European final for Manchester United?
"It would mean the world. I've come to this club knowing we were going to reach many finals and to be involved in one. Obviously, we've got one coming up which is huge for the club and for us. It would mean the world to me."
Obviously there are quite a few players who haven't won a trophy with United so might this spark something and be just the start?
"[It would be] so important. I've obviously heard stories, I've spoken to people about when they won here and it's been such a great road. You obviously have the start of the season and it's a marathon and you come to the end of it and you want to finish the season knowing you've done everything [you could]. The league slipped from us a bit so everything's down for this Europa League final now. It's something we're really looking forward to and, you know, we've been there before, not me myself but the club, and there's a lot of players here that have won this competition before and that's what we want to do again."
One-off games, all or nothing, do you like the pressure of that?
"As you said, it's a little different. You don't have the home-and-away kind of support, nothing on away goals, just a one-off game. You have to turn up on that day, you can't come away and think ‘oh, I could have done that a little bit better’ and think about the second leg. It's a one-off game and both teams will be fully up for it."
A first trophy for Ole as United manager would be special, wouldn’t it?
"Yeah it'd be absolutely brilliant for him. Obviously he's won a European final himself and I think where we've come from, especially when I first came in, it was a building phase and I'd like to think we've improved every game and this is the next step now. Last season we got to three semi-finals and we were very disappointed and now we've got that step further, can we go win a trophy? I think for him, and for us as a team, it would be a great stepping stone forward again."
"It'd be absolutely brilliant. I was watching the FA Cup Final and to see fans there was just amazing. You see how players thrived off fans being there, tackles being made, fans getting up for it. And that's what football's all about. We play not just for ourselves, but for the fans. We know they're supporting at home but when they're in the stadium, that roar pushes us an extra bit. It's something we're looking forward to, to seeing fans back, for them to travel out there. I'm sure many more thousands would love to go and the chosen few will feel very lucky to go and it'll be absolutely amazing to hear them cheer us on."
It's not been the easiest run to the final, but do we take confidence from those ties?
"Yeah we can take total confidence. We beat some great teams in this competition. Milan was a very tough game that we got through, and all the other games as well. I know Real Sociedad and Granada are similar positions to Villarreal but it comes down to one leg, it doesn't matter where anyone is in the league. It's a final and anyone can win on the day, we've just got to make sure we're ready for it, we're prepared and we turn up on the day."
Is this the biggest game of your career?
"One hundred per cent. It's the only final that I've ever been involved in. Winning a European cup competition would be amazing for me. I've never been involved. I wasn't involved when Wales went even to the Euro semi-finals, getting that far, so it is something that would be the biggest game of my career and it'd be great to come away with the trophy."