Manchester United and Ajax Amsterdam are set for titanic clash on Wednesday as the 2016/2017 UEFA Europa League gets to its cresendo. Sports Village Square recalls that the trophy has a higher stake for Manchester United as it is the club’s only path to the next edition of the Champions League.
Ajax Amsterdam has already picked a Champions League slot from its domestic league. Winning the Europa Cup will not give the Netherland an additional slot, but the reverse is it for Manchester and England.
A win by Manchester United means England will have five teams in the Champions League.
Ajax and Manchester United have each won two of the clubs’ four previous encounters –
Ajax and Manchester United will be playing each other for the fifth time when they meet in this season’s UEFA Europa League final. They have two wins apiece as it stands.
Goals in Amsterdam from Ashley Young and Javier Hernández put Sir Alex Ferguson’s side firmly in command, and the writing seemed to be on the wall for Frank de Boer’s men when ‘Chicharito’ was on target within six minutes of kick-off at Old Trafford. However, Aras Özbiliz equalised and the Red Devils – featuring current stars Young, Phil Jones, Chris Smalling and David de Gea – were in panic mode in the closing minutes after Toby Alderweireld had made it 2-1 late on.
“We relaxed a bit and felt too complacent and if you do that against a team like Ajax, what happened to us can happen – you lose the game,” an irked De Gea said at full time. Present-day United defender Daley Blind came on in the second leg for Ajax, as they became the first Dutch club to avoid defeat at Old Trafford.
Ajax 1-0 Man. United
Man. United 2-0 Ajax (agg: 2-1)
1976/77 UEFA Cup first round
Ruud Krol’s strike 42 minutes into the first leg gave Tomislav Ivić’s team a slender advantage to take to Old Trafford, but – kitted all in green for the return match – Ajax came unstuck in England.
Lou Macari fired in from close range after Piet Schrijvers had spilled Gordon Hill’s shot just before the break, and Sammy McIlroy completed the turnaround with a close-range finish after a sequence of quick passes undid Ajax.
Back in Europe following a seven-year absence, United’s confidence was up. “We were that young, 100-mile-per-hour team coming through,” Hill recalled.
McIlroy added: “Once it went to 1-1, that shook them up a little bit. They had to change their game plan, they had to score. The United supporters roared us on.”