Man U beat Ajax to win UEFA Europa League, qualify for Champions League
Manchester United won the UEFA Europa League final at the Friends Arena in Stockholm on Wednesday, beating Ajax 2-0.
Paul Pogba's deflected strike broke the deadlock after 18 minutes before Henrikh Mkhitaryan struck three minutes after the restart as United managed the game perfectly and nullified a disappointing Ajax side.
The win secured their second major honour under manager Jose Mourinho and qualification to next season's UEFA Champions League.
United started on the front foot, and Pogba flashed an effort wide from 25 yards amid a defensive mix-up in the first minute. Ajax struggled to settle into the contest, with their first attack of note coming 15 minutes in when Bertrand Traore shot straight at goalkeeper Sergio Romero.
Minutes later, the Red Devils' Marouane Fellaini found Pogba unmarked on the edge of the area, and the Frenchman's goal-bound effort took a fortunate deflection off Davinson Sanchez and past 'keeper Andre Onana.
United tested Ajax again soon after through captain Antonio Valencia, who forced a save from Onana after surging down the right before unleashing a shot on goal.
The Dutch side continued to struggle at the other end in the face of a compact and organised United defence, per football writer Liam Canning:
Manchester United have been brilliant in isolating Dolberg and not allowing Ajax to use him in their build-up play. Shutting off channels.— Liam Canning (@LiamPaulCanning) May 24, 2017
The Red Devils doubled their tally minutes into the second half when Mkhitaryan, with his back to goal, hooked Chris Smalling's knockdown from a corner over his shoulder and into the net from close range.
Henrikh Mkhitaryan in cup competitions this season:— Squawka Football (@Squawka) May 24, 2017
15 games 🏃
7 goals ⚽
4 assists 🅰️
Loves the cups. pic.twitter.com/RnISEIHsvX
Fellaini should have added a third when Pogba stood the ball up for him with a lovely cross, but the Belgian could only direct his header straight at Onana.
The miss would not prove costly, however, as United produced a masterclass in containing Ajax, largely restricting them to speculative efforts from range as the match wore on.
While the Red Devils' sixth-placed finish—and 15 Premier League draws—should still be a cause for concern, two major trophies and Champions League qualification represent a successful first season for Mourinho, particularly relative to how United have struggled in recent years.