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    • #5984
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      A fascinating Europa League final awaits us on Wednesday night in Stockholm as Manchester United’s season comes down to one single game versus Ajax.

      Manchester United’s predicament going into the final is well known. After finishing sixth in the Premier League, United need to win to ensure they make the Champions League next season.

      Victory would ensure Jose Mourinho has had a very encouraging season, including the Community Shield and EFL Cup. Whilst there is also a long unbeaten run in the Premier League to fall back on as well.

      Defeat and the knives could well be out for Mourinho. There is already talk of Manchester United holding back on a contract extension and pay rise for the Special One, if they fail to win in Stockholm.

      Meanwhile, the Adidas shirt deal, finances for next season and Manchester United player wages in 2017/2018 are all affected by whether the Red Devils can add the Europa League to their trophy cabinet.

      Reasonable estimates suggest this game is worth at least 70 million pounds. Over 20 million pounds is down to Adidas, another 50 million for simply playing Champions League football.

      But, more than anything, this game could bring Jose Mourinho and Manchester United back to the Champions League.

      Arguably, the prestige for Manchester United is more important than the money.

      It should be pointed out that Ajax also have plenty to play for despite already securing a spot in the Champions League.

      As it stands, Ajax are already in the 2017/2018 final Champions League play-off – the round before the group stage – thanks to finishing second in Holland.

      Victory in the Europa League final ensures the winners go straight into the group stage.

      Ajax were in the Eredivisie title race right up until the last weekend of the season and are a collection of very young and talented players.

      There is a feeling around the club that they are back to working under the ideals of Ajax and Barcelona legend Johan Cruyff.

      The return to a major European final, thanks to some incredible work by Peter Bosz, confirms that theory.

      Whether their youth plays into Manchester United and Jose Mourinho’s hands remains to be seen.

      Will their inexperience tell against arguably the greatest one-game manager ever seen?

      Or will the pressure be off and adrenaline the only thing Ajax have to worry about?


      Ajax have not played for 10 days, since they fielded the youngest ever Eredivisie side against Willem II and won 3-1 away.

      Peter Bosz has a full squad to choose from besides the suspended Nick Viergever.

      Every single Ajax player trained on Monday before the full squad travel to Stockholm on Tuesday.

      Daley Sinkgraven or Jairo Riedewald will replace Viergever at left back. Sinkgraven is thought to be the most likely to play by the Dutch press but he has been out with a knee injury since April and only returned to training on Thursday.

      Manchester United
      It seems safe to say that Manchester United’s starting XI for Crystal Palace on Sunday should guide us as to who will start v Ajax.

      As the injuries have hit, Jose Mourinho has very clearly shown the side he prefers to play in the crunch Europa League games.

      There are plenty of key players missing through long term injury that could have expected to play in this one.

      They include Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Marcos Rojo and Luke Shaw. Eric Bailly is suspended. And, Sergio Romero is Manchester United’s Europa League goalkeeper.

      It is also not entirely clear how fit Paul Pogba is after he scored and was then taken off before half-time against Crystal Palace.

      The likely scenario seems to be that Pogba is carrying an injury, as he has been for a few months now, and he will start the final against Ajax.

      Head To Head

      Wednesday will bring the fifth European meeting between Ajax and Man United, with both teams winning two of the previous four fixtures.
      Their first two clashes occurred in the 1976 UEFA Cup, with Man United progressing to the second round courtesy of a 2-1 aggregate victory – winning 2-0 in Manchester after losing the first leg in Amsterdam.
      Their most recent meetings came in the last-32 stage of the 2011-12 Europa League, and again it was Man United that progressed.
      The Red Devils actually lost the second leg 2-1 at Old Trafford, but a 2-0 victory in the first match saw the English giants advance to the round of 16.

      The key stats for the final

      Just two of the last 16 UEFA Cup/Europa League finals have been decided by a penalty shootout; 10 have been won in 90 minutes with a further four being decided in extra time
      There have been nine goals scored across the last two Europa League finals (an average of 4.5 per game).
      Jose Mourinho has won all six meetings with Ajax as a manager; those previous matches have all come in the Champions League with Real Madrid.
      Ajax forward Amin Younes (73) has completed more dribbles in the Europa League this season than the next two best players combined (United's Paul Pogba, 37 and Ajax's on-loan Chelsea striker Bertrand Traore, 31).

      Ajax possible starting lineup:

      Onana; Tete, De Ligt, Sanchez, Veltman; Klaassen, Schone, Ziyech; Traore, Dolberg, Younes

      Manchester United possible starting lineup:
      Romero; Valencia, Blind, Jones, Darmian; Herrera, Fellaini, Pogba; Lingard, Rashford, Mkhitaryan

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