Saturday, May 27, 2017

Stockholm May 2017

24th May 2017  Ajax 0 Manchester Utd 2  UEFA Europa League final  Friends Arena Stockholm     46,961

At times it felt a little like men against boys.

United offered up the power of Fellaini, Pogba, Valencia and co. while the young Dutch team often seemed overawed by the occasion.
Jose Mourinho’s men started sharply and benefited from a deflected Pogba effort on 18 minutes.

They then allowed Ajax possession, up to a point.
If the opposition got too close they were usually closed down leaving Romero with few serious threats.

Younes produced one break down the left but it was mostly Burkina Faso star (and Chelsea loanee) Bertrand Traore who provided the most promising Ajax moments.

But the youngsters would go in one down and soon afterwards the tie was effectively decided when Mkhitaryan scored the second from close range following a Smalling header.

Again United conceded space but Ajax too often broke down trying to penetrate the centre of the opposing defence.
Meanwhile at the other end Marcus Rashford offered a pacy, though usually unproductive, outlet.

Ultimately pragmatism prevailed in a poignant time for Manchester after the atrocity of the previous night.
As for Ajax they clearly have talented players (Sanchez amongst others) but the likes of Dolberg hardly got a kick.
If they had the chance, with a similar team, in a years’ time they would be much more of a threat.

As for the atmosphere maybe the background events meant the United fans were so subdued offering no choreo and far less noise than their counterparts.
But led by the ‘F-side’, positioned down the front, the Ajax fans produced tremendous support throughout.

Stockholm itself was dry & warm and afterwards a wind-down beer helped me reflect on events.

The following day I returned by train to Gothenburg and then to a somewhat chaotic Stansted.

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