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Dublin: 9°C Friday 23 October 2020


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Ajax 0-2 Manchester United 


GIVEN THE HEARTBREAKING events in Manchester just two days ago, there is likely to be an unusual atmosphere at the Friends Arena in Stockholm tonight.

With qualification to the Champions League on the line, it’s a hugely-significant night for both Manchester United and Ajax. However, Monday’s terrorist attack at an Ariana Grande concert — which killed 22 people and left a further 119 injured — has cast a dark cloud over the build-up to this Europa League final.

United were exempt from their pre-match media duties, and there will be a minute’s silence to remember those affected by the tragedy before kick-off.

Both teams have just come out to warm up and were about 35 minutes away from kick-off.

Here are the teams:

With an average age 22 years and 280 days, Ajax are fielding the youngest team to ever contest a major European final. Nick Viergever is suspended, so Jairo Riedewald comes into defence in the only change from the XI that started in their semi-final second leg.

United, missing the injured Zlatan Ibramovic and the suspended Eric Bailly, continue with their policy of playing Sergio Romero ahead of David De Gea in goal in this competition. Juan Mata gets the nod over Jesse Lingard and Marcus Rashford leads the line.


Ajax: Onana, Veltman, Riedewald, Sanchez, De Ligt, Klaassen, Younes, Schone, Ziyech, Dolberg, Traore.


Man United: Romero, Valencia, Smalling, Blind, Darmian, Herrera, Fellaini, Mata, Pogba, Mkhitaryan, Rashford.

Man United legend Eric Cantona has recorded a message for the people of Manchester in the wake of Monday’s bombing:

19-year-old striker Kasper Dolberg has been tipped for big things after his exploits for Ajax this season. With six goals in the Europa League, the Dane is reportedly wanted by a host of the continent’s top clubs.

Pictured below beside Dolberg is 17-year-old Justin Kluivert. The teenage son of Ajax, Barcelona and Holland legend Patrick has been named on the bench this evening.

Sweden Soccer Europa League Final Source: Martin Meissner

Did you ever hear the story of the iconic Irish international and the unmitigated disaster of signing for Johan Cruyff’s Ajax?

Read Eoin O’Callaghan telling the tale of when Frank Stapleton swapped Manchester for Amsterdam in 1987 — playing alongside Frank Rijkaard and keeping Dennis Bergkamp out of the team.

Paul Pogba’s brothers, Florentin and Mathias, are here. Thankfully, Man United aren’t playing St Etienne or Sparta Rotterdam as we’d have to endure an unnecessary amount of high-fiving and back-slapping between the siblings throughout.

Ajax v Manchester United - UEFA Europa League Final - Friends Arena Source: EMPICS Sport

Both sides have lined up out the pitch so we’re not far away now.

Friends Arena Source: BT Sport

We’ll now have a moment’s silence…


1 min: Kick-off — United, wearing blue and black, get us underway. Ajax wearing their traditional red and white strip.

1 min – Ajax keeper Onana comes to collect and clashes with his team-mate Veltman. Pogba volleys wide when the ball drops to him.

10mins: United have had a decent start to the game. The Red Devils appear to be playing 4-2-3-1 with Herrera and Pogba in midfield, Mata and Mkhitaryan out wide, and Fellaini pushed high up to help out lone striker Rashford.

Mata fires a volley across the goalmouth and Fellaini attempts to get a head onto it but he’s unable to make contact.

15 mins: Chance for Ajax – Younes and Traore work an opening well out on the left flank, and the on-loan Chelsea man blasts a strike at Romero, which is comfortably saved.


18mins: GOAL! Ajax 0-1 Manchester United (Paul Pogba) 

United lead! Pogba creates some room for himself 20 yards out and has a pop with his left foot. The effort catches Sanchez on its way towards goal and the wicked deflection takes the ball past Onana.

24 mins: Valencia goes bombing forward and rifles an effort at goal. Onana get the block in but Ajax need to get their act together.

31 mins: Yellow card – Mkhitaryan goes into the book for obstructing Veltman, and not for the first time.

36 mins: Ajax have enjoyed the majority of possession so far, and they are growing in confidence. Traore skips past a couple of challenges but he is stopped in the United box as Smalling boots clear.

45 mins: Traore breaks into United’s box again but Darmien gets his body in front and wins a free-kick.

One minute of additional time to play.

46 mins: Second half – We’ve restarted. No changes on either side.

Half time Europa League Source: BT Sport


48 mins: GOAL! Ajax 0-2 Manchester United (Henrikh Mkhitaryan) 

United double their advantage early in the second half. Blind’s corner is met by the head of Smalling and Mkhitaryan, who has had a poor game so far, flicks brilliant beyond Onana.

Breathing space for the Premier League side, and Champions League football is within touching distance now. There’s plenty of time still to play, though.

52 mins: Fellaini picks up a yellow card after bringing down Schone. He’ll have to be careful now.

58 mins: Veltman is next into the referee’s book for a foul on Mata.

59 mins: Lingard, Martial and Rooney have all be sent to warm up by Mourinho. Changes on the way?

62 mins: Substitution for Ajax – Peter Bosz is whipping off Dolberg, who has been extremely quiet this evening. On comes 20-year-old Brazilian David Neres and he will go out to the right of their attack with Traore switching to centre forward.

64 mins: Another booking, and it goes to Younes for a pull on Valencia.

65 mins: Chance for United – Pogba crosses in for Fellaini and he gets his header on target, but Onana saves.

70 mins: Ajax bring on Dutch prospect Donny van de Beek for Schone.

And Ajax have a free-kick just outside United’s box for a Mkhitaryan handball.

72 mins: Ziyech steps up, but strikes the wall with his set-piece. Disappointing.

73 mins: United’s first sub of the night, and it’s goalscorer Mkhitaryan off for Jesse Lingard.

Wasn’t his best game, but he did find the back net.

Ajax v Manchester United - UEFA Europa League Final - Friends Arena Source: EMPICS Sport

78 mins: Mata catches De Ligt with a nasty challenge and is handed a yellow card. They Ajax players aren’t happy with the tackle and Riedewald also earns a booking for his protests.

81 mins: Ajax make their final change as Riedevald is replaced by another 20-year-old — Frenkie de Jong.

84 mins: Anthony Martial is on with Rashford making way. Six minutes plus time added on left and this one looks to be in the bag for United.

87 mins: Lingard looks to be through on goal but Sanchez makes up the ground and puts in a crucial tackle. The Colombian defender has been excellent.

Down the other end, Van de Beek shoots at Romero.

90 mins: And here comes Wayne Rooney for what could be his final appearance in a United shirt. The club’s all-time record goalscorer replaces Mata.

Four minutes of additional time left.

Rooney Ajax Source: BT Sport


Full-time: Ajax 0-2 Manchester United 

United win the Europa League and, more importantly, qualify for next season’s Champions League! 

About the author:

Ben Blake