Europa League Final Match Report: Ajax 0-2 Manchester United
- Manchester United won automatic qualification to next season's Champions League
- A minute's silence was held before the game to honour the lives lost and affected by the terror attack on Monday
- The win meant so much more for the city of Manchester than a mere Champions League place
It’s something of a first that Manchester United had the whole country behind them in unison as they turned over a sprightly and youthful Ajax side 2-0 to win the Europa League Cup and secure their place in the Champions League for next season.
The 60-second silence at the beginning of the game to remember those lost in the Manchester bombings on Monday night where 22 people lost their lives turned in a raucous reception from both sets of supporters. “Manchester, Manchester, Manchester”, they sang as the noise bellowed out of the Friends Arena in Stockholm. It seems that Manchester and its people will not cower and fall into silence and despair. It’s just not the Mancunian way.
Memorable the match may be in years to come but the two goals will never grace the archives where the likes of Zinedine Zidane’s volley in 2002 or Hernan Crespo’s flick in 2005 sit. That won’t matter to the fans, though. They got it over the line in typical Mourinho fashion.
In the opening goal, Paul Pogba sprung away from his man just outside the box and rolled the ball just away from his weaker left-foot. He lashed at the ball, which looked to be heading harmlessly into the grasp of 21-year-old Ajax goalkeeper Andre Onana, but the outstretched leg of Davinson Sanchez deflected the shot, sending Onana in the opposite direction and giving this season’s League Cup and Community Sheild winning side the advantage inside 18 minutes.
ManUnited doubled their lead just into the second half. Henrikh Mkhitarayan scored after Juan Mata’s corner ball found Chris Smalling, who cleverly knocked the ball bouncing high into the path of the Armenian, who improvised a neat flick from close range.
Following the win, Manchester City tweeted out “ A City United”, and the Man United players did the same, with their players behind a large banner, suggesting that tonight, perhaps for one night only, it did not matter whether you were red or blue, all that mattered that you were Mancunian.
In football terms, the supporters of Man United may be looking back to the halcyon days of Sir Alex Ferguson as a point of things to come. They are certainly not at the dizzying heights that the once were, but with Mourinho and a triple-delight of silverware, there is only positivity surging from the west side of Manchester.
They would like to forget, though, that in 2001, Man United fans goaded Liverpool for winning the ‘Mickey Mouse’ treble of the Community Shield, League Cup and the then-called UEFA Cup. But after tonight, the fans will consider their season a ‘success’. Mourinho has surely answered his critics. He has brought a triplet of silverware in his first season, putting his side in the Champions League and giving them a night to remember.