José Mourinho Reveals How He Stopped Ajax With Manchester United
José Mourinho has shared his two cents on how he stopped Ajax when he came up against them in the Europa League with Manchester United.
The Eredivisie side are currently top of their domestic league — albeit level on points with second-placed PSV Eindhoven — but there’s no doubt that they are the true dark horse in the Champions League this season.
Erik ten Hag’s men brushed aside the reigning Champions League holders, Real Madrid, in the round of 16 and recently booked their spot in the semi-finals when they knocked Juventus out of the competition.
In the latest installment of his show on RT, On the Touchline with José Mourinho, the former Manchester United, Real Madrid and Chelsea manager talked about his own experience of facing Ajax in the Europa League with the Red Devils and the Old Lady’s exit from the Champions League.
“In my opinion, [Juventus are] another team that let Ajax play with their strength,” he said.
“Until this moment, nobody really respect them, and they let them play with the qualities they have.
“They have fantastic young players with a little bit of the experience they didn’t have a couple of years ago when I played them in the Europa Cup final.”
United defeated Ajax 2-0 in the Europa League final in 2017.
While the Dutch side have improved their team since then, some of the Ajax players from that final are in the current squad lighting up the Champions League this season, which includes the likes of Hakim Ziyech, Matthijs de Ligt and André Onana.
So, how did Mourinho pick up a win over Ajax in the Europa League? Well, the Special One revealed his strategy for United.
“We gave them the game that they didn’t want to have,” he explained.
“They complained [after the game] about the long build-up, they complained about [Marouane] Fellaini, about physicality, they complained because they couldn’t cope.
“If you play against Ajax in the way they want to play, you have the risk that they are better than you.
“If I see, for example, Ajax play Barcelona or Liverpool in the final, if they reach the final, I think Barcelona and Liverpool can beat them playing their own strength, but when your quality is not, you have to go to the strategic point of view and give them what they don’t want.”
You never know, maybe Mourinho’s advice could be an important framework for Tottenham Hotspur boss Mauricio Pochettino, whose Spurs side will face the Eredivisie title-challenging team in the semi-finals after knocking Manchester City out.
The 56-year-old Portuguese manager also singled out de Ligt with praise, believing that the Ajax captain, who has been heavily linked with Barcelona, has reached a top level at such a young age.
“De Ligt is, I don’t say a unique case, because in the history of football you have amazing young players, but we played against him two years ago and he looked already a very experienced player, 26 or 27, physically he’s very strong,” he explained.
“Now, two years later, he’s a really fantastic player.”
Will Spurs or Ajax progress to the Champions League final?
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