Celta Vigo’s sporting director praised Manchester United as a “historic opponent” after the Europa League semi-finals draw, but warned Jose Mourinho’s side that his team are capable of achieving “great things”.
The Spanish side know that they will have to upset the odds if they are to emulate their La Liga rivals Sevilla in reaching the final of the competition, although spirits are high after their dramatic 4-3 aggregate win against Genk in the previous round.
And the club’s sporting director, Felipe Minambres, commented after the draw that his club are relishing the chance to cause an upset.
“Manchester United is a grandiose, historic opponent and maybe even the best-known club in the world,” he said after the draw in Nyon.
“If we're going to achieve things it is best to do it against the biggest teams. It's a great challenge and will be played out on a great stage.
“We're happy to be here and we're even happier to be playing against a team like Manchester United. It's an inspiring challenge.
Minambres added that, even though United will be confident of progression, he has faith in Celta’s intense pressing style of play.
“Our style of play doesn't change,” he said. “We hope everyone enjoys the games and that we can continue in the competition.”
Currently 10th in La Liga, Celta Vigo’s transformation from a second-tier side to European semi-finalists has been nothing short of remarkable.
In 2007 the Galician side were relegated to the Segunda División and beset with financial problems, with a fight for the club’s future on their hands.
It took Celta five years to battle back from the brink but they returned to La Liga in 2012. Staying up by the skin of their teeth in their first campaign was an achievement that laid the foundations for a brighter future.
They then appointed current Barcelona boss Luis Enrique, who saw them out of trouble and stabilised them as a top-half club. Enrique moved on, as did star forward Iago Aspas, however Argentine coach Eduardo Berizzo kept up the good work.
Berizzo, an admirer of compatriot Marcelo Bielsa, implemented an intense pressing game with his players suffocating the life out of their opponents, which led to a sixth-place finish – and a return to European competition – last season.
Winger Nolito was sold to Manchester City, but in came Pione Sisto from Denmark. The Ugandan-born forward has a good record against United, scoring twice for former club Midtjylland against the Red Devils in this competition last season, and is one to watch with his pace and powerful shot.
Aspas also returned after an unsuccessful spell with Liverpool and has hit form again, notching 16 La Liga goals to date and earning himself a Spain call up.
Aspas and former Manchester City player John Guidetti have formed a potent attacking partnership and the Swede is keen to help his side reach the final in his home country on May 24.
“To play in any Europa League final would be motivation enough, even if it was on the moon, but of course for it to be played in Stockholm is a big thing for me,” Guidetti said.
“It's where I was born, where I grew up and so it is in my heart.”
While their European exploits have taken the steam out of their league form this season, they have still claimed some significant scalps.
They beat Barcelona at home in the league, knocked Real Madrid out of the King's Cup and won away at Shakhtar Donetsk earlier this season.
“We're playing really well,” Guidetti warns.
“We have a great squad and we just work hard together; we're like a big family. We can beat any team if we play the way we can.”
(Additional reporting by Reuters)