Ajax vs Manchester United
Competition: UEFA Europa League
Date: 24 May 2017
Kick-off: 20:45 CET
Ten days ago, Ajax won 3-1 at Willem II, but that wasn’t enough to give them the championship title in the Netherlands, since leaders Feyenoord won as well, 3-1, at home, over Heracles. That is the last game the Amsterdam team have played, spending the last ten days preparing for the most important game of the season, the Europa League final. In the semis, despite beating Lyon 4-1 at home and taking the lead in France as well, they almost ‘managed’ to send the return leg to extra time, by losing 3-1. Just before that, in the quarterfinals, again they had earned a big advantage in the first leg at home, 2-0, over Schalke, but the tie was decided at extra time in Germany. Left-back Daley Sinkgraven has been sidelined since mid April. Center-back Nick Viergever got sent-off in the last Europa League game at Lyon, and is an important absence. He played in 29 Eredivisie matches this season, starting in 27 of those. He was so consistent and reliable that he got substituted only twice. Young Striker Kasper Dolberg has scored in all of Ajax’s last four games.
For weeks now, Manchester United have made winning the Europa League their top priority, or, to be more exact, Jose Mourinho has made it his top priority, rotating players in the Premier League games. Last Sunday, United beat Crystal Palace 2-0 in the last game of the PL season, where they finished sixth. Winning the Europa League is the only way for them to play Champions League football next season, even though, according to Mourinho, winning the title itself, no matter if it’s the second biggest in UEFA club competitions, not the biggest, is huge enough for him, qualification for the Champions League aside. Center-back Eric Bailly got sent-off in the dying minutes of the return leg against Celta, in the semis, where United struggled to pass through, no matter if they had won 1-0 in Vigo in the first leg. Marcos Rojo has been sidelined for over a month now, Luke Shaw and Ashley Young got injured as well late April/early May, while, of course, Zlatan Ibrahimovic saw his season come to an early end in that Europa League quarterfinal against Anderlecht.
Ajax vs Manchester United: Head-to-head Stats
This is the fifth official game between these two. In 1976, Ajax beat United 1-0 in Amsterdam, but lost 2-0 in Manchester. In 2011, United won 2-0 in the Netherlands, but lost 2-1 at home. All four have been Europa League games.
Ajax vs Manchester United: Prediction
Ajax have won just one of their seven matches in the Europa League this season away from Amsterdam, and that was in Athens, over Panathinaikos, in September. They have lost the last three, in the knock-out stages, and in all three they came super close to getting eliminated. They have made friends in Europa with their attack-minded style of play, but the truth is that away from home they are a very-very-very different team, possibly because they are full of young and still not experienced enough players. United on the other hand, have three wins and two draws in the last five Europa League games they played away from Manchester, including victories at Saint-Etienne and Celta in knock-out stages. Despite their below average season in the Premier League, it feels as if in the Europa League they have the… know-how to get the result they want, especially away from home. All in all, I do expect United to win the title, but not necessarily without extra time, and maybe even penalties.
Ajax vs Manchester United: Tips
‘Man United to lift the trophy’ is at 1.44. Obviously we need something better than that. Not even ‘under 2.5 goals’ is good enough, at 1.66. Taking a big risk, I’m going all for all, suggesting a draw (3.60), and United to win the trophy in extra time, which pays 10.00.