MANCHESTER, England — Manchester United’s players lined up at the edge of the podium, waiting patiently to mount it and lift the Europa League trophy. Around them, their beaten opponents, from Ajax Amsterdam, had arranged themselves into a guard of honor.
José Mourinho, United’s manager, stood at the head of the line. Behind him, led by Zlatan Ibrahimovic, was a contingent of United’s injured players, in club suits or training gear; after them, the team that had played in that game in May at the Friends Arena near Stockholm.
Mourinho mounted the podium first. He shook hands with Edwin van der Sar, Ajax’s chief executive; Ed Woodward, United’s executive vice chairman; and Theodore Theodoridis, UEFA’s general secretary. Then he approached Aleksander Ceferin, UEFA’s recently installed president, who was waiting to give him his winner’s medal.
Mourinho shook Ceferin’s hand, took his medal, then leaned in close for a few seconds, trying to make himself heard in the noise. He had something to whisper in Ceferin’s ear.
He was now, Mourinho said proudly to Ceferin, the first manager to receive a winner’s medal from three UEFA presidents: Lennart Johansson, Michel…