At 4.45am (AEST), Thursday, May 25th, Ajax will take on Manchester United in the Europa League final, which will be hosted by the Friends Arena in Stockholm.
The last time Ajax saw the final of this competition was in 1992, when it was the UEFA Cup. The Dutch outfit won over two legs against Torino Calcio by virtue of their away goals. The Europa League is the only available trophy that Manchester United haven’t ever won.
With it being such a huge event for both teams, neither of which won their domestic league this season; Ajax finished second to Feyenoord in the Eredivisie, while Man United finished a disappointing sixth in the EPL. We look into the keys to victory for both clubs.
Ajax keys to victory
Given the depth of world-class talent in the Manchester United ranks, Ajax’s young goalkeeper, Andre Onana, will need to be on top form to finish his very impressive first season with the Eredivisie club on a high. The 21-year-old Cameroonian has had a great campaign, only conceding 36 goals and keeping 21 clean sheets through 47 games, but United pose a new level of challenge to Onana’s net.
One of Ajax’s stars of the season has been Davy Klassen. The Dutch attacking midfielder has been the creative spark from midfield that has not only boosted Ajax’s scoring but has also garnered him interest from Premier League clubs. The team captain will need to be crafty in and around United’s box to try to get his team on the score sheet.
Given the speed and dribbling ability of Manchester United’s potential front line, the Ajax defence will need to be weary of picking up yellow cards. In the Europa League knockout stages this season, both centre-back Nick Viergever and right-back Joel Veltman have received two bookings, subsequently being sent off, in games that Ajax went on to lose, so it’s no foregone conclusion that Ajax will end this game with 11 members of their team on the pitch.
Manchester United keys to victory
After missing out on next season’s Champions League via Premier League qualification, Manchester United need to win the Europa League final to earn a place in Europe’s top competition next season, and they’re 5/6 to lift the trophy in the bet365 football betting to do so.
Having been such a defensive team all season and lacking goals in recent games, United will need an attacking spark in the middle of the park to get them moving in the right direction: cue Paul Pogba. The Frenchman arrived for a world record fee but has only performed in spells this season and he will need to show composure in possession to ensure that United dominate the midfield and ultimately, finish the season with a second trophy and a clear stepping stone to reaching their former heights.
Also in central midfield, Ander Herrera will be crucial to the English club, but in a very different way to Pogba. Herrera has been the first line of defence for United for much of the season, with his dogged work rate and tenacious tackling utilised to shut down the midfield maestros of opposition teams. He’ll likely be assigned in a similar fashion to Davy Klassen in this Europa League final.
With top striker Zlatan Ibrahimovic injured, Manchester United will need someone else to step up to find the back of the net, and who better than their joint highest scorer in the competition: Henrikh Mkhitaryan. The crafty midfielder has been a source of creativity all over the park this season, and wherever he starts, he’ll be expected to ignite the attack and run at Ajax’s defence.