Manchester United put aside their emotions Wednesday night and played a complete game against Ajax, winning the Europa League final 2-0 in Stockholm.
At Friends Arena, which will boast a statue of Zlatan Ibrahimovic out front in the near future, United’s stars shone brightest. Ajax may have arrived with some of Europe’s best young talent, but it was high-priced transfer Paul Pogba opening the scoring for United. The French international took a shot from outside the box 18 minutes in, and the ball caught a deflection to rise over the Ajax keeper.
United were very compact on defense, and relied on pressure and turnovers to generate chances. Kasper Dolberg was a ghost, locked down by a United defense playing without suspended starter Eric Bailly.
Ajax needed big changes in the second half, but Henrik Mkhitaryan had other plans. Another expensive signing for Jose Mourinho, Mkhitaryan scored three minutes into the second half by flicking a shot high past Onana at close range.
It would have been expected if Manchester United were thrown off by Monday’s events, but they were composed and tactically sound. Ajax, on the other hand, showed the nerves of a starting XI with an average age under 20. Peter Bosz has incredible talent developing at Ajax, but their moment is not today.
For United, it’s a sigh of relief to raise their first-ever Europa League title. Despite a sixth-place finish in the Premier League, United will now automatically advance to the group stage of next year’s Champions League as Europa League champion.
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