Wednesday 24th May. 7:45PM. BT Sport (available for non BT Sport customers too)
The long road to Stockholm has reached its climax as Ajax and Manchester United head to the Friends Arena to contest the first of two major European finals taking place over the next few weeks.
Both illustrious clubs would rather be competing for the big one but, now that they’re here, they’ll each be utterly desperate to lift the Europa League trophy in Sweden. Can the Dutch deliver a masterclass in total football or will the Red Devils win the one trophy that’s still missing from their trophy cabinet?
Whatever happens, it should be a thriller from start to finish.
Ajax Out For An Upset
The Dutch side have already sealed their place in next year’s Champions League, but they did miss out on domestic silverware this term. A first European title in over two decades would be the perfect way to wash away those disappointments. However, Peter Bosz’s men will appreciate the fact that they are the underdogs.
Ajax’s young squad has shown a desire to fight both on and off the pitch in recent weeks, and 5-4 semi-final win over Lyon encapsulates this perfectly. Meanwhile, the young attacking talents of Kasper Dolberg, Justin Kluivert, and Bertrand Traore will give their opponents something to think about.
While the Dutch league isn’t as strong as it once was, Ajax’s penchant for both goals and clean sheets has given them immense confidence en route to Sweden. Meanwhile, their side boasts a number of internationals including Davy Klaasen, Joel Veltman, and Kenny Tete, so this occasion should not overawe them either.
Ajax won’t be fancied by many, and that might suit them to the tee. A positive start could be vital.
Pressure On For Manchester United
At the start of the season, this competition was anything other than a priority. However, as the Red Devils progressed deeper into the tournament, it became clear that Jose Mourinho was prepared to place his eggs in the Europa League basket as a way to qualify for next year’s Champions League. Now, the Premier League giants are potentially just 90 minutes away from that reward – as well as a second trophy of the season.
The Red Devils do face a few selection headaches, though, as Zlatan Ibrahimovic is injured while Eric Bailly is suspended. With several other players, including Ashley Young, also set to miss out, the Portuguese manager might not be able to pick his perfect starting XI. Having said that, the Premier League can have no excuses given their huge resources.
This is the perfect opportunity for Paul Pogba to underline what he can do. Meanwhile, skipper Wayne Rooney could be looking for the perfect sendoff, even if it does come from the bench. Marcus Rashford, Anthony Martial, and a host of others will be eager to fire the Red Devils to the title too, especially as it would send out a warning shot for next season in the process.
It has been a difficult maiden campaign at Old Trafford for Mourinho. However, two trophies and Champions League qualification would have to be considered a great platform to build upon. If his side plays to its potential, nothing should stand in their way.
Europa League Final: Ajax v Manchester United Betting
Manchester United enter the final as the overwhelming favourites and are priced 3/4 to win the trophy in 90 minutes with Coral. Ajax can be backed at 15/4 while the draw is available at 13/5.
The Red Devils haven’t been as convincing as they perhaps could and should’ve been at times this season, but we fully expect them to step up in this one. If they do, winning within the 90 minutes should not be an issue.
Ajax will need to chase should they fall behind too, which is why we think there’s a good chance that the Premier League side can win by two or more. With the possibility of a refund too, the -1 Asian handicap is well worth backing.
This competition was where Rashford famously burst onto the scene last season, and it would be fitting for him to register a goal in this year’s final.
With Ibrahimovic injured, and probably leaving, this is a great opportunity for the teenager to complete his transition to main star. At 7/4, we’re backing him to score. Just remember to wait for the confirmed team news first.