Manchester United capped off their season by triumphing in the Europa League final with a 2-0 win over Ajax on Wednesday
Manchester United claimed their second major trophy under Jose Mourinho, as they were crowned the UEFA Europa League champions on Wednesday night following a straightforward 2-0 win over Ajax at the Friends Arena in Stockholm.
In what turned out to be a comfortable evening for the Red Devils, Paul Pogba opened the scoring for his side just 18 minutes into the match as his long-range effort was deflected past a helpless Andre Onana by Davinson Sanchez.
Beyond that moment, Manchester United were largely untroubled as Ajax failed to create many clear-cut goalscoring chances. The win was subsequently rounded off just moments into the second half as Henrikh Mkhitaryan cleverly flicked the ball into the back of the net from Chris Smalling’s nod down.
— Manchester United (@ManUtd) May 24, 2017
The win ensured Manchester United’s qualification into the group stages of next season’s UEFA Champions League. The Hard Tackle now analyses the performances of players from both sides after what turned out to be a largely one-sided affair.
Andre Onana: 6/10
The Cameroonian goalkeeper made a nervy start to the game as he had a mix-up with Joel Veltman early on. However, there was nothing much he could have done to save Paul Pogba’s strike for the opener as it deflected wickedly.
Onana did well to keep Ajax in the game with a good save from Antonio Valencia’s thumping effort but was again left helpless when Henrikh Mkhitaryan flicked home the winner from close-range. Had little influence on the game apart from these incidents.
Joel Veltman: 6/10
Veltman was one of the better performers for Ajax on the night as he did well to neutralise the threat from Henrikh Mkhitaryan, while bombing forward with dangerous runs down the right flank.
But, he failed to provide the all-important final ball into the Manchester United box when most required. The Dutchman was guilty of pulling out of position, though, in what turned out to be a rare defensive error when Mkhitaryan scored the winner for the Red Devils.
Davinson Sanchez: 6/10
Another player who provided a good account of himself on the night, although he was unlucky to have Paul Pogba’s shot deflect off him early on in what turned out to be the opening goal for Manchester United.
Another blemish on the night for Sanchez was his sloppiness on the ball. Otherwise, the Colombian was a solid presence at the back for Ajax, and was especially impressive with a superb recovering tackle that denied Jesse Lingard a goal in the dying stages of the match.
Matthijs de Ligt: 7/10
Davinson Sanchez, who recovered from a shaky first half, and De Ligt put on a show for all Europe to see. Rough diamonds.
— Rafael Hernández (@RafaelH117) May 24, 2017
Arguably the standout player for Ajax on Wednesday, de Ligt showcased composure much beyond his age as he did well to keep the dangerous Marcus Rashford at bay for much of the match.
De Ligt’s positional sense was genuinely impressive while he was also decisive while carrying out the ball from the back, bar a few misplaced passes. The 17-year-old looked like a genuinely world class potential as he became the youngest ever player in a major European final, and big things can be expected from him in the future.
Jairo Riedewald: 5/10
Struggled on the left side of defence for large parts of the match against a rampant Antonio Valencia. His troubles were added as he was guilty of gifting Manchester United the possession that led to the opening goal with his sloppy throw-in.
Riedewald’s impact on the other end of the pitch was minimal as well, as apart from a searching cross that Kasper Dolberg failed to convert, he was unable get forward as frequently as his team would have wanted him to.
Davy Klaasen: 5/10
The midfield battle was where Ajax lost the match and it was captain Davy Klaasen who failed to be influential for large parts of the match on Wednesday.
Paul Pogba overpowered the young Dutchman for much of the game forcing him to drop deep. That cut Klaasen’s influence in the final third as he endured a frustrating outing on Wednesday.
Lasse Schone: 5/10
Schone was up against the powerhouse that is Marouane Fellaini on the night, and it was not surprising that he struggled against the Belgian in the centre of the park. And on the night when his experience was needed the most by Ajax, the 30-year-old failed to make it count, making little impact on and off the ball.
Hakim Ziyech: 5/10
Ajax’s creative force for most of the campaign, a lot was expected from Ziyech on the night. However, as he came up against the formidable Ander Herrera, the talented youngster could do little to create the elusive chances for his side – bar a few dangerous touches.
Bertrand Traore: 6/10
The only player who looked likely to make an impact in the final third for Ajax on the night, Traore looked dangerous early on as he forced Sergio Romero into a save within the first quarter of an hour.
However, as Darmian gradually grew into the game, the Chelsea loanee’s impact was slowly neutralised but he always posed a threat with his quick feet and tricky runs.
Kasper Dolberg: 4/10
1 – Kasper Dolberg’s first touch in the Europa League final was the kick-off after Paul Pogba’s goal. Isolated. pic.twitter.com/6cvkiwle4y
— OptaJohan (@OptaJohan) May 24, 2017
Dolberg has burst onto the scene this season as one of the most promising young strikers in Europe. But against a solid and determined Manchester United backline, the teenager endured one of his most forgetful outings this season as he was kept quiet and isolated.
He is rightly being touted for big things in the future but Wednesday’s game was an indication that Dolberg still has a long way to go.
Amin Younes: 6/10
Younes was yet another Ajax player who made an encouraging start to the match but saw his impact being faded as the match progressed. He caused Antonio Valencia a few problems early on, but the Ecuadorian dealt with the problem soon enough to cut the threat.
David Neres (on for Dolberg): 5/10
Donny van de Beek (on for Schone): 5/10
Frenkie de Jong (on for Riedewald): N/A
Sergio Romero: 7/10
Favoured by Jose Mourinho ahead of David De Gea, Romero didn’t have much to do on the night, as the Manchester United back-four succeeded in cutting Ajax’s threat for large parts of the match. However, the Argentinian was solid and assured as ever whenever he was called into action.
Antonio Valencia: 8/10
— Manchester United (@ManUtd) May 18, 2017
Valencia capped off a remarkable campaign with yet another strong performance on the right side of the Manchester United defence. The Ecuadorian was solid while dealing with the tricky Younes and he proved to be a dangerous presence in the final third while also testing Onana with a thumping shot.
Chris Smalling: 8/10
Replacing Eric Bailly in the side, Smalling did well against one of the most exciting attacks in Europe. Did well to nullify Dolberg’s – and later Neres’ – threat all through the night, and his nod down resulted with Mkhitaryan slotting home the winner.
Daley Blind: 8/10
Up against his old club for the first time since making the switch to Manchester United, Blind was efficient alongside Smalling at the heart of defence. Read the game brilliantly to make up for his lack of pace, particularly when he made the crucial interception to stop Traore in his tracks.
Matteo Darmian: 7/10
One of the most impressive performers for Manchester United on the night as he did well to deal with the pace and trickery of Traore after initially being troubled by the Chelsea loanee. Did not make much of an impact in the final third but was a solid customer at the back.
Ander Herrera: 8/10
A season of resurgence was capped off with another memorable performance as Herrera kept things tight in the centre of the park. Dealt with the creative and dangerous Ziyech with considerable ease, and his controlling display helped Pogba and Fellaini thrive going forward.
Marouane Fellaini: 8/10
15 – Marouane Fellaini has won 15 aerial duels vs Ajax, a new record high in one match in Europa League history (2009-now). Tower. pic.twitter.com/sQYPyOyBI9
— OptaJohan (@OptaJohan) May 24, 2017
Another one of those performances through which he repaid Jose Mourinho’s continued faith in him, Fellaini was a menace to deal with for Ajax, as he won a record 15 aerial duels on the night. Kept things simple with his short passes, one of which ended with Pogba scoring the opening goal of the match.
Paul Pogba: 8/10
Pogba provided another instance of his ever growing influence for Manchester United as he scored the opening goal for his side, albeit with a large slice of luck. Despite that though, he looked like the biggest threat going forward for Manchester United while also putting in a big shift defensively.
Juan Mata: 6/10
Mata started off looking out of rhythm but grew into the game as the minutes wore on, as he looked to exploit the space provided to him. Drifted inwards to make use of his creative instincts, and put the dangerous ball in with his corner to help set up Manchester United’s winning goal.
Marcus Rashford: 7/10
Rashford was touted to be the biggest threat for Manchester United prior to the match but Sanchez and de Ligt did well to nullify him for much of the proceedings. The teenager often dropped deep to help out in defence but largely struggled to find the end product in his side’s attacking pursuits.
Henrikh Mkhitaryan: 6/10
Mkhitaryan celebrating his goal vs Ajax with Pogba
— Manchester United (@MUFCScoop) May 24, 2017
Mkhitaryan scored the final goal in what turned out to be a largely successful campaign for Manchester United, but on the night he was often found wanting to provide the killer instinct in the final third against a resolute Veltman. Nevertheless, he grabbed the winning goal of the match and brought home the Europa League for the Red Devils.