Manchester United’s Europa League final clash with Ajax on Wednesday night means more than just silverware for the Old Trafford club.
Jose Mourinho’s side head to Stockholm this week knowing they must lift the trophy if they are to reach the Champions League next season.
United – who are looking to lift the Europa League for the first time – finished their Premier League campaign in sixth, with Mourinho highlighting the European competition as their most likely path to playing Champions League football.
Ajax meanwhile ended the Eredivisie season in second after losing out to Feyenoord on the last day, but the Amsterdam outfit are already guaranteed a spot in the Champions League play-offs.
However, with a group stage spot on offer, Peter Bosz’s side can make their summer schedule a little lighter with victory in Sweden.
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Ajax last won the UEFA Cup in 1992, while more recently they won the Champions League in 1995, their last of four triumphs in Europe’s premier tournament (also 1971, 1972, 1973).
WHEN IS THE MATCH?
Kick off is at 19.45 on Wednesday, May 24.
Manchester United – Eric Bailly is suspended whilst Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Marcos Rojo, Ashley Young and Luke Shaw are all out injured. Chris Smalling and Marouane Fellaini are doubts.
Ajax – The Dutch side have no fresh injury concerns having no played since May 14. However Daley Sinkgraven has been unable to recover in time at left-back with Nick Viergever suspended so Jairo Riedewald is likely to play at left-back.
WHERE IS IT BEING PLAYED?
The match will take place at the Friends Arena in Stockholm, Sweden.
o This will be the first time since 2002 that a Dutch club has reached a UEFA Cup/Europa League final (Feyenoord); Manchester United are the third English side in five seasons to reach the final (Chelsea in 2013 & Liverpool in 2016).
o Ajax and Manchester United have met four times before in European competition sharing two wins apiece (two games in the first round of the 1976/77 UEFA Cup and two legs in the round of 32 during the 2011/12 Europa League campaign).
o This will be the third meeting between English and Dutch sides in a European final (also Spurs v Feyenoord in 1974 and Ipswich v AZ in 1981, both in the UEFA Cup).
o Ajax are in their first European final since their penalty shootout defeat to Juventus during the 1995/96 Champions League campaign.
o The Europa League final will be played exactly 22 years after Ajax claimed their last European trophy by beating Milan in the 1995 Champions League final; that game featured Justin Kluivert’s father, Patrick, and Daley Blind’s father, Danny.
o The Dutch club have lifted the trophy in six of their last eight major European finals whilst the Red Devils have won four of their six; those two defeats coming in the most recent appearances however (2008/09 & 2010/11 Champions League finals versus Barcelona).
o Manchester United have reached the final of the Europa League/UEFA Cup for the first time in their history.
o The Red Devils have gone 10 matches unbeaten in this competition (W7 D3); conceding just four goals in that time.
o This game will be the 56th official game for Ajax this season, a new club record for the Amsterdam side.
o Ajax have lost two of their last three Europa League outings; letting in seven goals across that period.
o Ajax have lost three of their last four matches played in the UEFA Cup/Europa League against English opposition (W1) whilst United have lost two of their last three in this competition versus Dutch clubs (W1).
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