Manchester United secured Champions League qualification with an imperative 2-0 win against Dutch giants Ajax in Stockholm.
Paul Pogba wrote his name in the stars, by scoring the opening goal in the 2017 UEFA Europa League final. The Frenchman’s speculative effort took a heavy deflection off Ajax defender Sanchez to divert the ball past goalkeeper Onano.
Henrikh Mkhitaryan doubled Manchester United’s advantage shortly after the half-time interval with an instinctive strike from Juan Mata’s corner kick.
Ajax were unable to create many threatening opportunities and the potential threat from Ajax’s young fruitful team failed to materialise.
The grass is looking greener for Manchester United, after securing Champions League football, after a one-year absence from Europe’s most prized competition.
Mourinho threw his eggs into one basket by fielding weakened teams in the closing stages of the season. The Portuguese mastermind, known as the “special one”, received public criticism but his decision to rest players for the Europa League final has been merited.
It was an eagerly anticipated final and Ajax proposed the biggest threat that United had faced during their route to Europa League silverware. Although the team from Amsterdam dominated possession, Manchester United seemed comfortable during the 90 minutes.
Jose Mourinho has ended his debut season at Old Trafford with two trophies and has succeeded in his quest to qualify for the Champions League. For Ajax, the future remains promising and defeat at the hands of Manchester United could be used as a learning curve for their young promising squad.
Mourinho’s team were tactically perfect
Ajax had 69% of possession and Manchester United seemed content on allowing them to enjoy more of the ball. They defended in solid fashion and pressed high to force their opponents into conceding possession.
This tactic worked effectively on various occasions and Ajax struggled to create threatening offensive opportunities due to the sheer pressure pressed by Manchester United. It wasn’t the most pulsating and thrilling Europa League final but Mourinho mastered the route to Champions League qualification.
Bertrand Traore posed the biggest threat for Ajax and Henrikh Mkhitaryan was forced into fouling him on a handful occasions. Fortunately, Matteo Darmian foiled his plans to cause havoc and anticipated the youthful and energetic approach from the Chelsea forward to perfection.
Manchester United also had great balance in the attack, with various options to open up Ajax’s defence. The likes of Sanchez and De Ligt looked very nervous in possession and vulnerable to the attacking threat of Jose Mourinho’s team.
Marouane Fellaini and Paul Pogba provided an aerial threat, Rashford supplied an attacking route by running in behind their defence and the creativity of Mkhitaryan and Mata was another route to goal.
Jose Mourinho ordered his team to sit deeper and defend their two-goal lead in the closing 15 minutes. Ajax threw men forward but still failed to test Manchester United goalkeeper Sergio Romero.
This also left Ajax vulnerable to the counter-attack and were nearly punished by Jesse Lingard. The England international made a bustling run in behind the Dutch defence and was unfortunate not to have been awarded a penalty.
Was Jose Mourinho’s debut season a success at Manchester United?
In the Premier League, Manchester United finished in an underwhelming sixth position. Despite a 25-match unbeaten run, they lacked a clinical edge in the final third and recorded the highest amount of draws (15) in the Premier League this season.
Jose Mourinho was also criticised for fielding weakened teams in the closing stages of the season. This has proved to be a worthy decision, due to Manchester United’s victory against Ajax in Stockholm this evening.
Manchester United have won two major trophies this season, with the EFL Cup and UEFA Europa League. Although Liverpool qualified for the Champions League via fourth spot, they have to play in the qualifying rounds before reaching the group stages. Whereas, United will automatically qualify for the Champions League group stages.
His debut season at the Theatre of Dreams has failed to avoid controversy, in terms of comments made by Jose Mourinho. The former Chelsea manager has publically ridiculed the likes of Luke Shaw, Chris Smalling, Phil Jones and Anthony Martial this season.
This has been publically scrutinised but let’s not forget that he’s also helped enhance players’ reputations and performance. For example, Antonio Valencia, who has played at right-back has probably enjoyed his best season at Old Trafford since joining in 2009.
The season has ended on a high note for Manchester United and the Champions League awaits them next year. It’s likely to be an eventful summer, in terms of transfers, with ins and outs inevitable during the transfer window.
Antoine Griezmann and other world class talents have been linked with a move to Old Trafford this summer. Qualifying for the Champions League will enhance their opportunities of signing top talents, which will be essential for improving next season.
— GB Articles (@gbarticles) May 24, 2017
Wayne Rooney also looked to have made his last appearance for Manchester United, with a cameo appearance in the final minute of normal time. He received a warm applause from the supporters in Stockholm but the 31-year-old may have made his last appearance for the red devils.
To conclude this evening’s report, Manchester United have done their city very proud this evening, despite football obviously being of less importance. We’ve all heard about the terrible events, which took place at the Manchester Arena on Monday, and football has succeeded in bringing people together once again.