Manchester United will make their maiden sojourn into the Europa League final on May 24, when they face Ajax in the hopes that victory at the Friends Arena in Stockholm will grant them access to next season’s Champions League.
But what do we know about our two finalists heading into this clash of European heavyweights? And more importantly, which team looks more likely to come out with the Europa League title in tow?
Based on their European form of late, one would deem the Red Devils as heavy favourites for silverware considering they haven’t lost in their last 10 Europa League matches, having last suffered defeat at Fenerbahce in November. Meanwhile, Ajax edged their way into the final despite losing 3-1 at Lyon on Thursday—they won 5-4 on aggregate—which was their third loss in six Europa League matches.
Despite their long and illustrious histories, these two clubs have met on just four occasions to date, and it was United who got the better of Ajax in their most recent clash, winning 3-2 over the two legs of their 2011-12 Europa League round-of-32 meeting.
Only one leg will count on this occasion, however, and it’s for that reason the Red Devils’ proficiency for draws this season won’t do them any favours. No team in the Premier League has drawn more games this season (13), which is equal to 38 percent of United’s matches in the English top flight since August.
Like Jose Mourinho’s side, Ajax’s defence has laid much of the foundation for their success this season, and they’re currently second in the Eredivisie after conceding a joint-lowest tally of 22 goals, equal to 0.66 goals leaked per league game this season.
In Europe, the Dutch gems just edge their final opponents with 24 goals scored compared to United’s 23, with Belgian club Genk only just retaining their place as this season’s top scorers in the competition with 25 strikes.
As for personnel, Ajax will look to forward Kasper Dolberg as their main source in attack as he hopes to add to his tally of six goals, while Mourinho holds an ace of his own in the shape of Henrikh Mkhitaryan, who has five of his own in the tournament this term.