Report: Manchester United win the Europa League for Manchester!

Manchester United won the UEFA Europa League beating Ajax 2-0 at the Friends Arena in Stockholm on Wednesday evening. The only major European trophy the club have never won in the history. Paul Pogba scored the opening goal, putting United 1-0 up in the 18th minute of the match. United doubled down in the 48th minute through Henrikh Mkhitaryan, earning their name on the trophy. Ajax were touted as the better team, but despite having the majority of the ball in Stockholm, they did little with it. United won a Mickey Mouse treble this season; the FA Community Shield, the EFL Cup and the UEFA Europa League. Take me Holm!

Jose Mourinho restored his first team after Sunday’s 2-0 victory over Crystal Palace, keeping the faith in Sergio Romero. Antonio Valencia, Chris Smalling, Daley Blind, Matteo Darmian, Ander Herrera, Marouane Fellaini, Juan Mata, Henrikh Mkhitaryan and Marcus Rashford also returned to the starting XI with Paul Pogba the only player to start both this UEFA Europa League final and the last match. United have made it 79 consecutive seasons of having at least one youth player in their matchday squad with Pogba and Rashford starting and Fosu-Mensah and Lingard on the bench. After the minute’s silence after Monday’s terror attack in Manchester, the fans were in full voice, spurring the team in their bid for glory.

Paul Pogba could have played a big part in the opening minute with his volley going wide of the mark which also saw Andre Onana and Joel Veltman collided in the box as Pogba tried to put his team ahead. United had a lot of the ball in the opening eight minutes of the match, getting forward a lot and pressuring Ajax to play deep, which recently has been the other way around. Ajax had their first bit of real pressure in the thirteenth minute with Davy Klaassen waiting in the United box, but United dispossessed the Dutch side, making the clearance. Amin Younes played the ball for Bertrand Traore, who had a shot on goal for the Dutch side with Sergio Romero thwarting the effort and catching the ball, regaining possession for United.

Paul Pogba opened up the scoring in the 18th minute of the match after a poor Ajax throw-in was intercepted by Juan Mata who passed to Marouane Fellaini who set up the Frenchman, who apparently was having a poor season, despite being the main man on the pitch for United, not to mention the fact that when he wasn’t playing, United missed him. 1-0 to United on their quest to a European title. United seemed to be boosted by that opening goal. In the 24th minute, Antonio Valencia had the ball on the right flank, beating his man, getting into the box and firing a powerful effort towards the goal with Onana putting a top to it, luckily for him. In the 31st minute of the match, Henrikh Mkhitaryan was booked for a challenge on Veltman.

Ajax had a spell of pressure on United around the 33rd minute of the match, having their most credible created chance of the game, which was thwarted by United. Ajax were starting to awaken towards the end of the first half, but United were never out of control. Pogba, Ander Herrera and Fellaini were doing enough in the midfield to stop Ajax from advancing and turn the tide on them. Traore got through on goal for United with Matteo Darmian defending well, then fouled in the box by the on-loan Chelsea player, with United being awarded the free-kick. There was one minute of additional time played at the end of the first half. Ajax may have had more of the ball in the first half, but it was United who were on top at the break.

No changes at the start of the second half for either team. United picked up where they left off, getting forward and threatening the Dutch side. United had the perfect start to the second half, doubling the lead from a corner with Smalling nodding the ball into the six-yard box and Mkhitaryan hooking the ball into the roof of the net. United fans were saying we should not underestimate this Ajax side, it would seem they were overestimating them. Another goal for United should be game over, providing they keep playing like they have been for the remainder of the match. United were playing well this evening, which is a surprise after the season they have had, but when you account for the fact the season is over after tonight, it might suggest where this has come from.

In the 65th minute of the match, United pressured the Dutch side again. The cross came in for Fellaini, who was in the box, god the header on goal which went straight into Onana’s hands. Unlucky for the Belgian. United seemed determined to keep both hands on the trophy which could be their fifth European trophy in the history of the club, and more importantly, a place in the Champions League. Ajax won a free-kick on the edge of United’s box for a handball by Mkhitaryan, which was ball to hand and harsh for United. Hakim Ziyech took the free-kick, hitting his own player in the box and United clearing the danger. Jesse Lingard replaced Mkhitaryan in the 74th minute of the match, United’s first change of the night so far.

United were still on top inside the last ten minutes of the game with Ajax not really getting a look into the game. They still had a lot of the ball, but just were not doing anything with it. United’s height seemed to thwart the majority of attacks. United made their second change of the evening in the 84th minute with Anthony Martial replacing Rashford. Just after the change, Lingard was on the run, but ran out of pace, getting dispossessed just inside the box getting nothing from his attack. United were still two goals to the good. In the last minute of the match, Wayne Rooney made his 559th appearance for United, replacing Mata. Four minutes of added time at the end of the half, with United just having to see it through to get their hands on the only major trophy they have never won before. Manchester United have won the UEFA Europa League and a place in the Champions League next season, eat that, Arsenal.

Goals: Paul Pogba 18′, Henrikh Mkhitaryan 48′

Assists: Marouane Fellaini 18′, Chris Smalling 48′

Manchester United: Romero; Valencia, Smalling, Blind, Darmian; Herrera, Fellaini; Mata (Rooney 90′), Pogba, Mkhitaryan (Lingard 74′); Rashford (Martial 84′)

Substitutes Not Used: De Gea; Jones, Fosu-Mensah; Carrick

Bookings: Henrikh Mkhitaryan 31′, Marouane Fellaini 52′, Juan Mata 78′

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copyright: JW

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