2016/17 of the UEFA Europa League will come to an end tomorrow night when both former European giants – Manchester United and Ajax will meet in the final at Friends Arena in Solna, Stockholm. The battle will not be only for the cup, but also for the ticket to the 2017/18 UEFA Champions League group stage.
Manchester United will look to win it’s fifth European title after three Champions League cups and one UEFA cup winners’ cup. They know that they must win, in order to avoid another year without Champions League, because they finished the Premier League only in sixth place which leads again to the Euopra League – unless they win tomorrow. It’s tough times to the city of Manchester who cannot even think about football, after the horrible attack which happened yesterday during a concert where 22 people were murdered and more then 60 were injured.
Manchester United reached to the final after they finished second in their group which included teams like Fenerbahce, Feyenoord and Zorya Luhansk. They didn’t have trouble beating St. Etiene in the second phase, but then they had difficult battles with Rostov, Anderlecht (QF) and Celta Vigo (SF) but eventually they managed to qualify.
Manchester’s biggest absent will be, of course, Zlatan Ibrahimovic, who is injured for several months. Ashley Young, Luke Shaw and Marcos Rojo also injured. Beside them, Eric Bailly was sent off in the last match vs. Celta and won’t take part tomorrow also. Marouane Fellaini and Chris Smalling who were injured, recovered and supposed to be fit. Jose Mourinho will look to win his fourth European title after two Champions League and one UEFA cup.
On the other side there is Ajax Amsterdam, the team who managed to carry many neutral fans this season because of their young squad and attractive style. This team has a lot in common with 1995 Ajax who surprised Europe and won the Champions League. By the way, in both cases the name Kluivert appeared in the squad list. In 1195 it was youngster Patrick and now after 22 years, his son, Justin, will probably play. Peter Bosz couldn’t lead Ajax to win the Dutch championship, but he will try to give them first European title since 1995 and to qualify to the Champions League group stage after this year’s failure in the preliminary.
Ajax reached the final after finished first in a group with Celta Vigo, Standard Liege and Panathinaikos. Ajax’s fans suffered all the way to the finals with narrow wins over Legia Warsaw, Copenhagen, Schalke 04 (QF) and Lyon (SF) ut now they are finalists and ready to win. Ajax will have almost full squad for the final including their leading players like Davinson Sanchez, Davy Klaassen, Hakim Ziyech and Kasper Dolberg. Only Viergever who is suspended and Sinkgraven who is injured, won’t play.
Both teams met only twice before in European competition and Manchester was the winner. In 1976 UEFA cup Ajax won 0-1 in Amsterdam but lost 0-2 in Manchester, while in 2012 Europa League, Manchester won 0-2 in Amsterdam and lost 1-2 at home, but qualified regardless.
Onana; Veltman, De Ligt, Sánchez, Riedewald; Klaassen, Schöne, Ziyech; Traoré, Dolberg, Younes.
Romero; Valencia, Jones, Blind, Darmian; Fellaini, Herrera, Pogba; Lingard, Rashford, Mkhitaryan.