Manchester United and AFC Ajax put their name on Europa League finalist for the 2016/17 season with their respective successes against Celta Vigo & Lyon in their semifinal games. Now, they will fight for the Europa League trophy in Switzerland’s national stadium Friends Arena, Stockholm on 24th May.
Man United reaches final with their away goal lead as they played a 1-1 draw against Celta Vigo in second leg of semifinal to become the finalist with 2-1 aggregate result, whereas Ajax capitalizes on their home 4-1 advantage to reach final with 5-4 aggregate result despite losing the away game 3-1 in Lyon on Thursday.
1 – Manchester United have reached the final of the Europa League/UEFA Cup for the first time in their history. Collection. pic.twitter.com/rhpRLKY27h
— OptaJoe (@OptaJoe) May 11, 2017
Europa League is Uefa’s second tier football competition, but it has served the football fans around the world with more fulfilling football than the Europe’s elite competition Uefa Champions League. If you leave Barcelona’s comeback against PSG in last 16 round, there won’t be many fixtures in the competition you can remember that have given the nail biting experience, whereas Europa League has given too many games to remember this season.
— OptaJohan (@OptaJohan) May 11, 2017
When AS Roma were supposed to be the one who will be challenging for the title, Olympique Lyonnais – the semifinalists who loses against Ajax 4-5 aggregate sent them home with brutal 5-4 aggregate victory in last 16 stage of the competition.
Spanish side had ruled the competition in last three seasons as Sevilla emerged winner on each of those three occasion, but this season only Celta Vigo leads the Spain in the competition at later stage. But, their journey ends against the Red Devils of England as they failed to score at home. They snatched a late equalizer in away game as they have been doing consistently in the competition, but in the end it wasn’t good enough to take them to the final.
Jose Mourinho’s Man United side did better than Eduardo Berizzo’s Celta Vigo side to book their place in final. Mourinho’s needed that victory to keep alive his European dream for the next season as they seems to be failing in their preparation for top four in Premier League. Only Europa League trophy will give a sure shot for him to find a place for his team at Uefa Champions League group stage next season, but it won’t be easy against the young Ajax’s side.
Ajax is a hard nut to crack, when their total football is in full flow. It looks like a new Ajax team who is hungry for success and wants to relive the glorious past. The four time European Cup winner become the eight team to play in ten Uefa European Club Competition finals, and they’ll be looking to stamp their name on second Europa League trophy as they last won Uefa Cup (Europa League) in 1991/92.
It’s going to be a thrilling encounter in two weeks’ time at Friends Arena in Stockholm. It will be sad that Manchester United’s this season star man Zlatan Ibrahimovic won’t be able to feature in final which will be played at his home. It would have been his final game at Friends Arena if he had fit, because he has already retired from international football, and it was rare opportunity for him to represent his club in front of his home fans.