Friday, May 26, 2017

On Wednesday, in the UEFA Europa League final, Manchester United defeated Dutch capital-club Ajax AFC 0–2 to win the Europa League title and qualify for the UEFA Champions League group stage despite finishing sixth in the Premier League this season. A deflected goal from Paul Pogba’s left-footed shot in the first half and a flick goal by Henrikh Mkhitaryan in the second half ensured that José Mourinho’s side lifts its third trophy in this season, previously winning Community Shield and the EFL Cup.

Before the kick-off, a one-minute silence was observed at the Friends Arena, Stockholm, for the victims of a suicide attack in Manchester Arena on Monday. The English side had just 33% ball possession in the entire match, completing 192 passes out of 276. A comparatively young Ajax team, with the average age of the starting lineup no more than 23 years, had 88% passing accuracy, with 565 successful passes. Manchester United had better numbers for defense, recovering 64 balls – 22 more than Ajax, and had almost twice as many ball clearances as the Dutch counterpart. A total of 32 fouls were committed in the match, and the official booked six players – three players of each side received a yellow card.

At the age of 17 years and 285 days, Ajax’s Matthijs de Ligt became the youngest player to play in the Europa League final, while Marcus Rashford became the youngest winner of the tournament at the age of 19 years and 205 days.

A deflection off Davinson Sánchez from Paul Pogba’s left-footed shot gave United an early lead. Ajax’s shot-stopper saved Antonio Valencia’s close-range strike. Another attempt in the first half by Ajax’s Bertrand Traoré was saved by Sergio Romero. The half time ended 0–1. Minutes into the second half, Armenian midfielder Mkhitaryan scored a goal just in front of Ajax’s net, which doubled Manchester’s lead. Five players were booked in the second half. Ajax’s attempts in the final minutes of the game were stopped by Romero, not giving them a chance to reduce the difference.

Last season, Premier League club Liverpool FC lost the Europa finals against Spanish side Sevilla FC. United is the first English club to win the Europa since 2013. This season’s Premier League winners Chelsea won the tournament four years ago against Benfica at Ajax’s ground, Amsterdam ArenA. Since then, Sevilla has added three Europa titles to their collection.

After the match, Ajax’s coach Peter Bosz said, “We’re obviously disappointed. I didn’t see the Ajax team I’m used to, pressing and competing for first balls. We weren’t good enough. Often, to win finals you must first lose them. It’s all new for all my team. They will learn a lot from it and if we keep the squad together they will be stronger for it.” Bosz’s first season as Ajax’s coach ended trophy-less.

Manchester United’s boss José Mourinho said, “We are in the Champions League in the right way and for me the right way is winning the Premier League or winning the Europa League. We were not strong enough to win the Premier League but we were strong enough to win the Europa League and we are back in the Champions League. The club now has every trophy in world football. We fought hard for this since the beginning. We totally deserved the win. I am so happy to see all the players, including the boys with the crutches, with the trophy.” The Portuguese has won two Champions League titles – one each with FC Porto and Inter, and two Europa titles – the first one with Porto.

United became the fifth team after Bayern Munich, Chelsea, Juventus, and Ajax to win all three major UEFA trophies – European Cup Winners’ Cup, the European Cup (rebranded as Champions League) and UEFA Cup (rebranded as Europa League). They are to face the winner of Real Madrid and Juventus in the Champions League final in the UEFA Super Cup scheduled on August 8 at the Philip II Arena in Skopje.

“We are in the Champions League in the right way and for me the right way is winning the Premier League or winning the Europa League.”

May 24, 2017
Ajax AFC 0–2 Manchester United Friends Arena, Stockholm, Sweden Referee: Damir Skomina
Joël Veltman 58’Amin Younes 64’Jairo Riedewald 78’Kasper Dolberg 62’David Neres 62’Lasse Schöne 70’Donny van de Beek 70’Jairo Riedewald 82’Frenkie de Jong 82′ 0–1 (HT) Paul Pogba 18’Henrikh Mkhitaryan 48’Henrikh Mkhitaryan 31’Marouane Fellaini 52’Juan Mata 78’Henrikh Mkhitaryan 74’Jesse Lingard 74’Marcus Rashford 84’Anthony Martial 84’Juan Mata 90’Wayne Rooney 90′