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UEL final preview: Exuberant Ajax take on mighty Manchester United

Can a young Ajax side upset the odds in Stockholm and ruin United's season?

Prithviraj Dev | New Delhi |

Two sides with massive European pedigree will go head-to-head when Ajax face off against Manchester United in Stockholm for the UEFA Europa League final, with plenty on the line for both clubs. Perhaps, more so for Jose Mourinho and his expensively-assembled Manchester United squad, considering their struggles in the Premier League this season. 
 
While Ajax may not boast big-names in their squad, they definitely have some future stars in their line-up and have played some terrific football to reach the final with such a young squad. So while the Red Devils are clear favourites, counting out de Godenzonen would be a foolhardy venture and as one famous manager once said, “Finals are for winning, not for playing.” 

Ajax

While they narrowly lost out to Feyenoord in the Eredivisie, manager Peter Bosz will be desperate to avoid missing out on a second title as he seeks to build a side that can challenge the continent's elite sides for the next couple of years.
 
Kasper Dolberg, despite being just 19 years of age, has 23 goals to his name this season and along with Bertrand Traore (on loan from Chelsea) and Amin Younes, forms a very potent attack triumvirate for the Dutch giants. 
 
With talented young young defenders like Matthijs de Ligt and  Davinson Sanchez, there is plenty of optimism at the Amsterdam Arena, regarding this bright team but awaiting them are a team notoriously hard to beat. And, if they wish to etch their name in history like the great Ajax side that won the Champions League in 1995, they will have to dig deep and find that extra oomph to overcome their English opponents. 

What they are saying: “To win the Europa League title, we must focus on our game but “I don’t know how the players will react. This is everybody’s first European final, says Ajax manager Peter Bosz (as per www.ajax.nl)
 
 

Injury concerns: Daley Sinkgraven (Knee)
 
Suspension Alert: Nick Viergever

Manchester United 

How United must be envying their youthful opponents.
Almost the polar opposites of the Dutch side, the Red Dedvils have struggled for goals up top, yet are a win away from completing their almost overflowing trophy cabinet. 
 
Pulling the strings in midfield will be Ander Herrera and Paul Pogba, but Mourinho has a few selection dilemmas on his mind ahead of Wednesday’s final. Does he start Sergio Romero, who has been excellent in Europe all season or does he go with David de Gea, an upgrade undoubtedly, but a who seems destined for Real Madrid in the summer? Reports seem to be favouring the South American, but we will know for sure only when the line-ups are announced close to kick-off. 
 
Up top, Marcus Rashford is a sure-shot starter but who will be supporting the young English striker? It may well be Wayne Rooney’s final game in an United jersey and the veteran’s recent record is not half bad, but the ‘younger’ lot of Anthony Martial, Jesse Lingard and Henrikkh Mkhitaryan all make for strong case to start. 
 
With Eric Bailly suspended, Mourinho has to chose who Chris Smalling will partner in the centre of defence. Will it be the technically gifted but slow Daley Blind (up against his former club) or the injury-prone Phil Jones?
 

What they are saying: “I don’t need to insist on how tough it will be to beat Ajax. They’ve been playing dazzling and offensive football with bold, very young footballers.I hope we can impose our experience to win, says Manchester United midfielder Juan Mata (as per his personal blog)

 Injury concerns: James Wilson (Knee), Marcos Rojo (Knee), Zlatan Ibrahimovic (Knee), Luke Shaw (Calf), Ashley Young (Muscle)
 
Suspension Alert: Eric Bailly 

 
Super Stat: Mourinho has won all six of his previous meetings against Ajax and has lost only two out of 13 cup finals in his managerial career!