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Ajax v Manchester United – Mourinho can end his maiden season on a high at the Friends Arena
The Europa League Final represents many things for Manchester United and Jose Mourinho, but the biggest reward that can be gained from defeating Ajax is a return to Champions League football. The club have qualified once for top-level European competition since Sir Alex Ferguson retired in 2013 and last season’s campaign ended early in what was a very winnable group.
Mourinho was hired for the very reason of taking the club back to the pinnacle of the European game and, though his side finished a disappointing sixth in the Premier League, he has secured their first European final since the 2011 Champions League final at Wembley - a 3-1 loss to Barcelona.
It is probably no coincidence that the rumours of Antoine Griezmann’s move to the North West, which have been ongoing all season, have now reached fever pitch in the build up to the match. The Atletico Madrid forward said on French television that the transfer was “6/10” likely, with many taking that to mean that his decision will be made depending on United’s result against the Dutch side. Atletico are already reported to have agreed a deal with Lyon for Alexandre Lacazette, whilst Diego Costa may be tempted with a return to the Spanish capital ahead of the riches of China.
Ajax finished second to Feyenoord in the Eredivisie, though should not be taken lightly as opponents. Mourinho intimated that the club should not be allowed to drop into the competition after elimination from the Champions League in the play-off round, though they have shown themselves to be a young, exciting and consistent side. The final will represent mixed loyalties for some: Edwin van der Sar is now chief executive at the Amsterdam outfit, while Daley Blind will be up against the side he left in August 2014.
Both teams, of course, had strong campaigns to reach this point. Ajax won Group G unbeaten and saw off Celta Vigo – the semi-finalists that came close to knocking out United. The English side themselves came second in Group A, though saw off Saint-Etienne, Rostov, Anderlecht and Celta to reach the Stockholm final.
Mourinho will be without a number of key men, with Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Luke Shaw, Marcos Rojo and Eric Bailly all ruled out due to suspension or serious injury, though having rested many over the weekend, he will expect his team’s superior experience to show. Now would be a good time for Paul Pogba to step up in a big game.
With a win in Sweden the only way that United can rescue a disappointing season, they are rated as favourites by Tipbet. They can be backed at 1.85 to win in 90 minutes, with their opponents at 4.55. Extra-time (2.80) and a penalty shootout (4.60) are both possibilities, while there are 106 markets for the game altogether.
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Odds 23.05.2017 – 12:00 PM (no guarantee for the accuracy of the statistics and odds, odds subject to change, livestreaming depends on the TV rights of the countries, there is no guarantee to activate streams in some countries)
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