On Wednesday night, Manchester United took on Ajax Amsterdam in this season’s UEFA Europa League final, in the Friends Arena of Solna, Sweden.
There was much more on the line than only a continental title. The winner would also qualify directly for next season’s Champions League, something that neither team had accomplished through its domestic campaign.
For a club like Manchester United, qualification for the Champions League is the minimum requirement for a successful season. It is the key factor in deciding if they will be able to bring in world-class players in the summer.
Ajax on the other hand, had nothing to lose and everything to gain with their squad, full of bright, young talent.
In spite of this, it was the Dutch side that was unable to display the offensive fireworks, that had brought them to this point in the competition.
It was United that made use of their experience and pushed their style onto the opposition. Ajax had more possession, but was unable to do anything with it. They virtually created no chances, while Manchester made use of the few opportunities they had.
Paul Pogba gave the Red Devils the lead after less than twenty minutes, which Henrikh Mkhitaryan doubled early in the second half.
What followed was the team from Amsterdam trying and miserably failing to get past their opponents’ defense, often resorting to long range efforts, that were also unsuccessful.
The game ended 2-0, putting Manchester United among the few elite clubs to have won all three major UEFA club competitions (including the old Cup Winners’ Cup). This is something that Ajax had already accomplished, during their long-gone continental glory days.
If Amsterdam can keep their young talents, those glory days may well be about to return, but in this day and age of moneyed clubs attracting the best players, it is a very big if.