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Dublin: 15 °C Friday 20 April, 2018


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Full-time: Manchester United 1 (3) Ajax 2 (2)

Welcome along to another Thursday night where we will be focusing on the Red Devils, who are looking to progress to the last 16 of the competition by seeing off Ajax.

United are overwhelming favourites to go through after a 2-0 win in Amsterdam and would face one of Lokomotiv Moscow or Athletic Bilbao in the next round. The Russian side lead that game 2-1 on aggregate and 0-0 on the night with just under an hour gone at San Meme Stadium and we will keep you up-to-date on how that finishes.

Elsewhere, Stoke trail Valencia 1-0 (2-0 on agg) with 64 minutes gone after a goal from Brazilian striker Jonas.

The team sheets have been handed in at Old Trafford so this is how they will line up:

Manchester United: De Gea, Rafael, Jones (c), Smalling, Fabio, Park Ji-Sung, Nani, Young, Cleverley, Berbatov, Hernandez. Subs: Amos, Evra, Evans, Giggs, Carrick, Scholes, Welbeck.

Ajax: Vermeer, Alderweireld, Vertonghen (c), Anita, Van Rhijn, Koppers, Eriksen, S De Jong, Lodeiro, Sulejmani, Ozbiliz. Subs: Cillessen, Ooijer, Blind, Serero, Aissati, Ebecilio, Klaassen.

So the two goalscorers from last week, Ashley Young and Javier Hernandez, both start for the home side and Wayne Rooney drops out of the side for Dimitar Berbatov, who hasn’t played in three weeks. Park Ji-Sung comes in for Micheal Carrick, while Rio Ferdinand and Johnny Evans are replaced by Rafael Da Silva and Chris Smalling.

This is the fourth consecutive season that Ajax have made the last 32, but they have not managed to make it as far as the quarter-finals of a UEFA competition in nine years. Manager Frank de Boer has not thrown the towel in just yet however:

“Obviously we are trying to get the result and we are not here just to see the sights,” the Dutchman said.

Basel got a result against Manchester United in the Champions League and we can do the same. We will see after the game what the result will be.

“The team is going to try to make it difficult for Manchester United and overall it is a great opportunity for our players to play this game.”

It’s finished 1-0 (2-0 on agg) to Valencia in Spain, so Tony Pulis’ side have been eliminated. A 62nd minute goal from talented teenager Iker Muniain has sent Bilbao through on away goals, meanwhile, so Marcelo Bielsa’s Basque outfit will face the team who come through this tie.

Park is United captain tonight and not Phil Jones. Chicharito and Berbatov have tipped off. Here we go then…

Early corner for Ajax after Sulejmani’s cross his Rafael. Eriksen swings it in, the clearance makes it way back to the Dane, and he’s won another one.

GOAL! Manchester United 1 (3) Ajax 0 (0) (Javier Hernandez)

Park wins the ball in midfield, finds Berbatov, who in turn plays in his strike partner. Hernandez steps inside his marker and fires past Vermeer in the Ajax goal.

Rafael gets himself into an advanced postion, then throws himself to the ground when he realises he’s lost control of the ball. Should’ve been a booking that.

It’s like a managers’ convention at Old Trafford tonight. The camera spots England caretaker boss Stuart Pearce, his possible successor and Manchester City gaffer Roberto Mancini all sitting in close proximity.

Hernandez runs into a huge gap in the Ajax backline and is found by the pass of Rafael. He squares to Berbatov but a last ditch interception puts the ball behind for a corner. A free-kick is then given for pushing in the box.

Ajax break and Eriksen lays off to Sulejmani before being taken out by Smalling. The refereree waves to play the advantage but the Serbian international blazes over.

Rafael has a go with his weaker foot but it’s tame and Vermeer isn’t troubled. Less than a minute later, the Brazilian defender is back putting a vital block in. He’s certainly been busy in this opening 20 minutes.

Siem de Jong cuts in off the left flank and fires well wide from 20 yards. Credit to Ajax, they are playing some attractive football and fancy their chances of scoring. Armenian attacker Aras Ozbiliz shows great footwork to turn in the box and shoots from a fairly narrow angle. De Gea collects without too much exertion.

Rafael does get the first booking of the night for a late challenge on Nicolas Lodeiro. 28 minutes gone.

United weren’t far off there. Nani’s reverse pass puts Berbatov in but his cut back is marginally behind the run of Hernandez, who would’ve almost certainly scored.

The visitors have the ball in the back of the net, but it’s been rightly ruled offside.

The scream of Dico Koppers rings around the stadium after he is caught late by Cleverley. The free is given and an excellent ball is whipped across the face of the goal without an Ajax player getting the necessary connection.

GOAL! Manchester United 1 (3) Ajax 1 (1) (Aras Ozbiliz)

21-year-old Ozbiliz scores with a super hit from just outside United’s box after the ball is only half-cleared. No more than they deserve, although the Red Devils should really have more than one goal.

Just one minute of added time to be played.

Half-time: Manchester United 1 (3) Ajax 1 (1)

Other half-time scores you may or may not be interested in…

Anderlecht 1 (2) AZ Almaar 0 (0)

Atletico Madrid 0 (3) Lazio 0 (1)

Besiktas 0 (2) Braga 1 (1)

Metalist Kharkiv 1 (5) Red Bull Salzburg 0 (0)

Olympiakos 1 (2) Rubin Kazan o (0)

Schalke 1 (2) Viktoria Plzen o (1)

Sporting Lisbon 0 (2) Legia Warsaw 0 (2)

Ajax, who are being backed by a fairly noisy travelling crowd aren’t quite out of this yet. The first ten minutes of the second half have been pretty open but neither side have created a shot on goal yet.

And just as I write that, Eriksen cuts back for Lodeiro, but the Uruguayan leans back and can’t keep his effort down. Paul Scholes is about to be introduced as Ajax take a corner.

What a chance for Ronald de Boer’s side. The set piece comes in and De Gea has a header powered at him Vertonghen but is somehow able to push it over the bar.

Eriken, who has been a little quieter than he was in the first leg, makes way for South African midfielder Thulani Serero. During the same stoppage, Ferguson brings on Scholes and Johnny Evans for Cleverley and Young.

The changes have seen Jones pushed into midfield to partner Scholes with Evans taking his place at the back and Park going to the left side of midfield. Their final substitution of the night, Danny Welbeck, takes to the field in place of Berbatov. The former Bulgarian international is gets huge applause upon departing.

Nani cracks the bar after stepping onto this left foot and letting fly with Vermeer well beaten.

Daley Blind gets a few minutes to impress as Lodeiro makes way. The substitutes, and in particular Scholes, have done a fine job of killing off the away side’s threat by holding onto position.

GOAL! Manchester United 1 (3) Ajax 2 (2) (Toby Alderweireld)

Ozbiliz, who scored his side’s first lashes a free-kick in for Alderweireld to head home from close range. Cue countless mentions of ‘squeaky bums’.

Full-time: Manchester United 1 (3) Ajax 2 (2)

So United progress as expected but the late goal, and a home defeat in Europe, weren’t part of the plan. Be interesting to see what Ferguson has to say.

“I will have to take responsibility for picking such a young back four. It was a risk but we were disappointing in the second half,” Alex Ferguson tells Channel 5.

Here is how the last 16 looks:

Metalist v Olympiakos

Sporting Lisbon v Manchester City

FC Twente v Schalke/Plzen (2-2 on agg in extra-time)

Standard Liege v Hannover

Valencia v PSV Eindhoven

AZ Alkmaar v Udinese

Atletico Madrid v Besiktas

Manchester United v Athletic Bilbao

About the author:

Ben Blake