Manchester United came to match with a plan and executed it with panache. Ajax had more possession but the fact remains that they rarely threatened Sergio Romero. They rarely penetrated and even when they did, they struggled keeping the shots on target or away from the keeper. United awaited their opportunities and pounced whenever they got the chance. In the end, goals from Pogba and Mkhitaryan ensured that United win the Europa League and play in the Champions League next season.
Manchester United vs Ajax, UEFA Europa League 2016/17 final highlights:
0204 hrs IST: FULL TIME!! Manchester United win the Europa League. They are only the fifth club to have won all five UEFA Trophies. They are also through to the Champions League. They put all their eggs in one basket they ensured that it is protected well
0203 hrs IST: Four minutes of added time. Four minutes before United can say that the club has won everything
0200 hrs IST: Change for Manchester United, Wayne Rooney comes on for Mata. And the Manchester United supporters have only one name to sing
0154 hrs IST: Change for Manchester Untied, Rashford goes of Anthony Martial. He may have not got a goal here, but Rashford has been a constant threat with his runs all over the Ajax half of the pitch
0148 hrs IST: Juan Mata makes a rash challenge on De Light and Ajax are incenced. The yellow card is on the way but Herrera clashes with Riedewald and Wayne Rooney, warming up down the touchline intervenes tom diffuse the situation. Bookings for Mata and Riedewald
0146 hrs IST: Pogba goes down inside the box and appeals for a penalty against Sanchez. Referee is not interested
0144 hrs IST: Change for Manchester United, Mkhitaryan goes off for Jesse Lingard. Third official intially put up the wrong number on the board before correcting it to Mkhitaryan’s no. 22
0141 hrs IST: Ajax win a free kick inside the D due to a Mkhitaryan hand-ball. Ziyech takes it and it is straight into the wall
0139 hrs IST: Some intricate passing Ajax find almost find a way through the United defence, it goes for a corner.
0135 hrs IST: Pogba sends in a simple ball from the right of the box. Fellaini is the target and the Belgian heads it straight to the keeper. Fellaini has been quietly effective so far in the match and that goal would have been well deserved.
0134 hrs IST: Booking for Ajax, Younes gets a yellow card for bringing down Valencia.
0132 hrs IST: Change for Ajax, Dolberg off for Neres. Dolberg has been a spectator today, unlike Rashford down the other end.
0126 hrs IST: The gulf in experience in full display now. Younis receives the ball inside the box and is pushed to the right by Valencia. He could have found Traore in front of him. Instead he tries to wriggle him off and United see it off.
0120 hrs IST: GOAL! Mkhitaryan makes it 2-0 in United’s favour. United started the second half on the front foot taking on the Ajax defence and forcing a corner. It is floated in, Smalling meets it with a downward header and Mkhitaryan, with his back to goal, hooks it over Onana. If the first one was lucky, the second was one created by United for United.
0100 hrs IST: HALF TIME! Manchester United 1-0 Ajax. Ajax may have been more adventurous, and have put together some beautiful moves. But the fact remains that where United have managed to keep their shots on target, Ajax haven’t. Traore made two good runs but his extra touches left his good work undone. The first goal may have been deflected but the move was created only after Ajax gifted the ball to United with a poor throw-in. United have been more clinical and have reaped the rewards
0058 hrs IST: Traore once again in after a lovely United move but takes a touch too many. Darmian blocks him off and ensures the ball runs over the touchline
0055 hrs IST: Five minutes of regulation time left and Ajax have been the arguably the better side. But the one stroke of luck for an enterprising Paul Pogba means that it’s advantage United
0050 hrs IST: Bertrand Traore dribbles past two United defenders and gets into the box, Blind finally takes the ball away. Ajax have responded brilliantly since conceding but have no goal to show
0047 hrs IST: A fascinating period of play there as United try to get out of the pressure cooker like situation Ajax are creating with their pressing. Younis, who has been making a nuisance of himself down the left puts in Dolberg but he is dispossessed by Fellaini.
0044 hrs IST: Yellow card for Mkhitaryan and the Armenian is the first booking of the night.
0038 hrs IST: The workhorse attitude of Antonio Valencia gives United another chance as he dashed down the right and into the box. Took the shot but it was straight at Onana.
0036 hrs IST: Mkhitaryan is the man being targeted by Ajax in a very unique. They are forcing him to commit fouls. He has already received a warning from the referee for a rash challenge on Veltman
0031 hrs IST: GOAL! Paul Pogba’s deflected shot puts United ahead. Lucky break this for United. Pogba cuts inside and takes a shot from the edge of the box after Fellaini picks the ball up from a poor throw from Ajax. The ball skimmed off the backheel of Sanchez and deflected over the head of Onana.
0027 hrs IST: Younes twists and turns around the left of United’s goal before putting Traore in, the latter makes space and takes the shot on the near post but Romero is able to pick it from above him. First real chance for Ajax
0021 hrs IST: The possession has been even but United have made more inroads into the opposition half. Rashford’s movements have been as dangerous as always and Juan Mata is waving a few wands around the box.
0015 hrs IST: United, in their away jerseys kick off the match and Paul Pogba gets a shot on target just seconds into the match. A minute later, Rashford gets into the box but is crowded out. Sprightly start from United.
0013 hrs IST:
0009 hrs IST: Players have walked out on to the pitch. A minute’s silence observed for the victims of the Manchester Arena attack.
0006 hrs IST: Presenting you the youngest ever starting XI in a European final:
Take a look around the @AFCAjax dressing room…
— UEFA Europa League (@EuropaLeague) 24 May 2017
2348 hrs IST: Here are the teams:
Ajax: Onana; Riedewald, De Ligt, Sanchez, Veltman; Ziyech, Schone, Klaassen; Younes, Dolberg, Traore Subs: Boer, Tete, Westermann, De Jong, Van der Beek, Kluivert, Neres
Manchester United: Romero; Valencia, Smalling, Blind, Darmian; Herrera, Fellaini; Mata, Pogba, Mkhitaryan; Rashford Subs: De Gea, Fosu-Mensah, Lingard, Carrick, Jones, Martial, Rooney.
2349 hrs IST: Looking at this match without its context is nearly impossible. Till yesterday, the only thoughts going through anyone associated with Manchester United, fan, spectator and player alike, would have been the final at Stockholm against Ajax. An Ariana Grande concert changed that and suddenly, in Jose Mourinho’s words, the team travel to Sweden but “not with the happiness” associated with playing a match of such gravitas.
But the fact remains that this is United’s most important game of the season. In fact, the League Cup win seems something that happened a long time back. If United fail to win this match, they spend one more year out of the Champions League. Since they finished sixth this year, there won’t be another Europa League season either.
If United lose it, it will also bring an incredible journey to end for Ajax’s youngsters. The team that starts in Stockholm is the youngest ever to start a European final.