Manchester United win their second major trophy of the season and secured Champions League football as they overcame Ajax to win the Europa League final in Stockholm yesterday at the Friends Arena.
Paul Pogba fired Manchester United in front in the 18th minutes when his left-footed strike took a massive deflection.
Armenian Henrikh Mkhitaryan added to the lead early in the second period, flicking home from close range after Ajax failed to deal with a corner from the right.
Manchester United did just that to win the Europa League, to close the circle on trophies claimed in their history, and to return to the Champions League. This was also a tiny slice of defiant joy after the trauma and horror of two nights ago back in Manchester.
The telegraph report that,Ajax were shackled. At the back Daley Blind and Chris Smalling dominated Ajax’s precocious striker Kasper Dolberg. In midfield Marouane Fellaini and Ander Herrera went man-for-man and took care of Lasse Schöne and Hakim
Ziyech and while Marcus Rashford did not have his most impressive game, his willingness and running unsettled the Ajax defence.
But Mourinho knew exactly what Ajax would do and knew he would prey on their callowness, their risk-taking and their inexperience. He gave each of his players detailed, disciplined jobs and they had a game plan to follow – although it does not half help if there is a huge slice of good luck along the way as they received with their opening goal.
It came as Fellaini laid the ball off to Paul Pogba and although the Ajax defenders were slow to close down there was little threat from his shot, just outside the area, until the ball ricocheted up off Davinson Sánchez’s shin to wrong-foot André Onana and spin into the net as the goalkeeper desperately tried to reach out a hand and stop it.
Manchester United Captain Wayne Rooney made a brief appearance as a substitute with a minute left and the game won, being handed the captain’s armband by Antonio Valencia on what could well be his farewell appearance for United.
And as the final whistle sounded and United’s celebrations began, chants of “Manchester United” rang around the Friends Arena in tribute to those who died and were injured in the attack which cast a shadow over this showpiece occasion.
Mourinho told reporters, “It’s really hard. Yesterday we didn’t want to have the press conference because we had to prepare ourselves to do our job and to try forget events that are obviously much more important than our job. But the world goes on, it does not stop.
We have to do our work.
I agree with UEFA’s decision to play the match but if we have questions that made us return to this tragedy obviously it takes happiness from our achievement.
If we could we could change the peoples’ lives for this cup we wouldn’t think twice.
Does this cup make the City of Manchester a little bit happier? Maybe.
But we just have to do our job. We came without the happiness we should bring with us because when you come for the big matches like this you go happy and proud.
The boys were fantastic because they put a wall in front of their eyes and they stayed isolated from events and focused on the football match which I think we played really well in. They deserve the moment.
The Mirror report that ,Just 18 minutes had passed. And Pogba, who has suffered his own personal tragedy with the death of his father, pointed to the heavens in celebration.
It meant Dolberg’s first touch was to restart the game after Pogba’s goal although eventually Ajax began to threaten.
But just as it started to feel as if United had withdrawn too far and were being too conservative they scored again.
The irony was, early in the second half, it was struck by Henrikh Mkhitaryan who had endured a miserable opening 45 minutes to such an extent it was a surprise to see him return.
He made it count with Smalling meeting Juan Mata’s corner and the defender thudding his header down into the ground with the ball bouncing up for Mkhitaryan, inside the six-yard box, to cleverly hook it over his shoulder and high into the net. Mourinho calmly nodded his approval.
According to BBC Sport, Ajax coach Peter Bosz said it would be understandable for his young side to feel nervous – and his fears were confirmed as they were never able to show off the full extent of their glittering promise.
Six of the starting line-up were 21 or under in the youngest 11 to start a major European final, with an average age of 22 years and 280 days. In defender Matthijs de Ligt, they had the youngest player to feature in one at 17 years and 285 days.
“It was a boring game. There were no chances from both sides,” Bosz said after the final whistle.
“I’m disappointed because you play finals to win them. We didn’t. I haven’t seen the Ajax that I’m used to.”
This was a night of disappointment for this great, historic old club but they are staying true to their finest traditions by producing outstanding young talent and showing a commitment to attacking football.
Ajax have established the foundations for more success.
“For all the players, this is the first final,” he added.
“They will learn a lot from it and we will become stronger, and if we can keep this squad together we will be stronger next season, for sure.”
Paul Pogba who scored back-to-back games for United after a run of 19 games without one. It was the first time he had done so at club level since April 2016 for Juventus