Manchester United claimed their second major trophy of the season and secured Champions League football as they overcame Ajax to win the Europa League final in Stockholm.
On an emotional night following the attack which killed 22 people at Ariana Grande’s concert at the Manchester Arena on Monday, United’s fans were allowed a measure of celebration as Jose Mourinho’s side won in comfort.
Paul Pogba’s deflected shot put them ahead in the 18th minute and Henrikh Mkhitaryan’s sixth Europa League goal of the campaign, flicked in from Marouane Fellaini’s header at a corner, confirmed they would add to the EFL Cup won against Southampton earlier this season.
Wayne Rooney made a brief appearance as a substitute with a minute left and the game won, being handed the captain’s armband by Antonio Valencia on what could well be his farewell appearance for United.
And as the final whistle sounded and United’s celebrations began, chants of “Manchester” rang around the Friends Arena in tribute to those who died and were injured in the attack which cast a shadow over this showpiece occasion.
It means United are now the fifth team to claim the full quota of European trophies, joining an illustrious list with Ajax, Chelsea, Juventus and Bayern Munich.
Mourinho back in the old routine
Mourinho has had his moments of frustration this season – especially with 15 Premier League draws that led to an unsatisfactory sixth-place finish.
It left United’s Champions League hopes resting on this game but the win and subsequent qualification for the group stages of Europe’s elite tournament means that Mourinho can regard this season as a real success.
Some may question the quality of United’s performances and this undoubtedly remains a work in progress but two trophies and that place back in the Champions League is an impressive outcome, irrespective of the style in which it was achieved.
It was also a European final won without key defender Eric Bailly, who was suspended, and 28-goal leading scorer Zlatan Ibrahimovic, who sustained a serious knee injury in the quarter-final win against Anderlecht at Old Trafford.
Tottenham’s Mauricio Pochettino and Liverpool’s Jurgen Klopp have received much praise for their work this season and getting into next season’s Champions League – Mourinho has done that and added the actual tangible reward of two pieces of silverware on top.
Mourinho’s mood has often been dark this season but he still has that habit of dealing in his favourite currency, namely trophies.
And it means United can, finally, regard their season as a successful one as a night which started with a mixture of silence then applause for those who died in Monday’s attack and ended with Wayne Rooney lifting the Europa League trophy on what is very likely to be his final appearance for the club.
Pogba shows his class
Pogba has struggled to justify the world-record transfer fee of £89m paid to Juventus last summer but this was a stage on which he showed flashes of the qualities that persuaded Mourinho to make him such a high-priority signing.
Like this United side, there is still much to do before he can be regarded as the finished article but the manner in which he made sure early midfield dominance was secured was impressive and he added a goal for good measure.
It may end up being classed as an own goal but Pogba will happily accept it, trying his luck from 20 yards after being afforded just a little too much space by Ajax captain Davy Klaassen and helped by a huge deflection off Davinson Sanchez. And perhaps he was due that touch of good fortune after being thwarted by the woodwork so often this season.
And it was another profitable night for another big-money Mourinho buy, Mkhitaryan. The Armenian struggled in the first half but showed what a priceless poacher’s instinct he has, swooping from close range for another Europa League goal.
Ajax youngsters suffer stage fright
Ajax coach Peter Bosz admitted it would be understandable for his young side to feel nervous – and his fears were confirmed as they were never able to show off the full extent of their glittering promise.
Six of the starting line-up were 21 or under in the youngest 11 to start a major European final with an average age of 22 years and 280 days. In defender Matthijs de Ligt, they had the youngest player to feature in one at 17 years and 285 days.
This was a night of disappointment for this great, historic old club but they are staying true to their finest traditions by producing outstanding young talent and showing a commitment to attacking football.
Ajax have established the foundations for more success.
Man of the match – Paul Pogba (Manchester United)
Mourinho completes double double – The stats you need to know
- Paul Pogba is the third French player to score in a major European final in the 21st century (Zinedine Zidane 2002, Kevin Gameiro 2016).
- Jose Mourinho is the first manager to win the Champions League and the Uefa Cup/Europa League twice.
- 3VeltmanBooked at 58mins
- 36de Ligt
- 4RiedewaldBooked at 78minsSubstituted forde Jongat 82′minutes
- 20SchöneSubstituted forvan de Beekat 70′minutes
- 25DolbergSubstituted forNeres Camposat 62′minutes
- 11YounesBooked at 64mins
- 21de Jong
- 30van de Beek
- 77Neres Campos
- 25A Valencia
- 8MataBooked at 78minsSubstituted forRooneyat 90′minutes
- 27FellainiBooked at 52mins
- 22MkhitaryanBooked at 31minsSubstituted forLingardat 74′minutes
- 19RashfordSubstituted forMartialat 84′minutes
- 1de Gea
- Damir Skomina
- Shots on Target
Match ends, Ajax 0, Manchester United 2.
Second Half ends, Ajax 0, Manchester United 2.
Foul by David Neres (Ajax).
Antonio Valencia (Manchester United) wins a free kick in the defensive half.
Attempt missed. David Neres (Ajax) left footed shot from outside the box is close, but misses to the right. Assisted by Hakim Ziyech.
Attempt saved. Hakim Ziyech (Ajax) left footed shot from outside the box is saved in the centre of the goal. Assisted by Davinson Sánchez.
Substitution, Manchester United. Wayne Rooney replaces Juan Mata.
Corner, Manchester United. Conceded by Joël Veltman.
Foul by Joël Veltman (Ajax).
Ander Herrera (Manchester United) wins a free kick in the defensive half.
Joël Veltman (Ajax) wins a free kick in the defensive half.
Foul by Paul Pogba (Manchester United).
Attempt saved. Donny van de Beek (Ajax) left footed shot from the right side of the box is saved in the top centre of the goal. Assisted by Bertrand Traoré.
Donny van de Beek (Ajax) wins a free kick in the defensive half.
Foul by Marouane Fellaini (Manchester United).
Dangerous play by Davy Klaassen (Ajax).
Chris Smalling (Manchester United) wins a free kick in the defensive half.
Substitution, Manchester United. Anthony Martial replaces Marcus Rashford.
Attempt missed. Davinson Sánchez (Ajax) right footed shot from outside the box is too high. Assisted by Frenkie de Jong.
Substitution, Ajax. Frenkie de Jong replaces Jairo Riedewald.
Attempt missed. Matthijs de Ligt (Ajax) left footed shot from outside the box is high and wide to the left. Assisted by Joël Veltman.
Attempt blocked. Donny van de Beek (Ajax) right footed shot from outside the box is blocked.
Corner, Ajax. Conceded by Matteo Darmian.
Jairo Riedewald (Ajax) is shown the yellow card.
Juan Mata (Manchester United) is shown the yellow card for a bad foul.
Matthijs de Ligt (Ajax) wins a free kick in the defensive half.
Foul by Juan Mata (Manchester United).
Substitution, Manchester United. Jesse Lingard replaces Henrikh Mkhitaryan.
Foul by Bertrand Traoré (Ajax).
Daley Blind (Manchester United) wins a free kick in the defensive half.
Attempt blocked. Hakim Ziyech (Ajax) left footed shot from outside the box is blocked.
Hand ball by Henrikh Mkhitaryan (Manchester United).
Substitution, Ajax. Donny van de Beek replaces Lasse Schöne.
Foul by David Neres (Ajax).
Matteo Darmian (Manchester United) wins a free kick in the defensive half.
Bertrand Traoré (Ajax) wins a free kick in the attacking half.
Foul by Daley Blind (Manchester United).
Corner, Ajax. Conceded by Chris Smalling.
Attempt missed. Hakim Ziyech (Ajax) left footed shot from outside the box is high and wide to the left. Assisted by David Neres.
Attempt blocked. Bertrand Traoré (Ajax) left footed shot from the centre of the box is blocked. Assisted by Davy Klaassen.