UEFA Europa League
Friends Arena, Solna, Sweden
Manchester United won their first UEFA Europa League title after defeating AFC Ajax 2-0 in the Europa League Final at the Friends Arena in Solna, on what was an emotional night, following Monday’s attacks in Manchester, which left 22 dead.
On an occasion, where football seemed the least of the priorities, Paul Pogba and Henrikh Mkhitaryan found the net for United to clinch a third piece of silverware this season and earn automatic qualification for the Champions League Group Stage.
In a mostly uneventful first-half, Ajax went close to taking the lead in the 14th minute when Bertrand Traoré and Amin Younes combined before the former fired an effort at-goal that Sergio Romero saved well at his near-post.
Four minutes later Manchester United took the lead. After the Dutch side lost possession from a throw-in, Marouane Fellaini fed Pogba, whose strike from-range found the back of the net via a deflection off Davinson Sánchez, past a helpless André Onana.
In the 23rd minute the Red Devils went close to doubling their lead when Antonio Valencia surged forward before firing an effort at-goal that Onana palmed away.
The English side doubled their lead two minutes into the restart when a Daley Blind corner was flicked-on by Chris Smalling into the path of Mkhitaryan, who hooked the ball home.
United had a good chance to extend their lead in the 64th minute when Pogba found Fellaini with a cross but the Belgian’s header was straight at Onana.
The Dutch side had a good chance to reduce the deficit in the 86th minute when substitute Donny Van De Beek cut-inside to fire an effort at-goal but Romero saved the strike with ease.
In the third of four additional minutes, Ajax had a great chance to grab a consolation when substitute David Neres was played through on-goal by Hakim Ziyech, the Brazilian had just Romero to beat but he miscued his lobbed effort, which was eventually cleared by Smalling.
The result meant that Manchester United won their first ever Europa League title and ensured they qualified automatically for the Champions League Group Stage. The title was manager José Mourinho’s second UEFA Cup/ Europa League title, having won the title with Porto in 2003. Ajax were runners-up but deserved to be proud of their efforts in their campaign as their search for their first European title since 1995 continued.