United And Ajax's Fortunes Since Europa Final Are A Stark Contrast
Ajax and Manchester United were both in action in Champions League action on Tuesday night and their differing fortunes on the night shone a light on what’s happened since the two sides played against each other in the 2017 Europa League final.
Two years ago Jose Mourinho led Manchester United to their first ever Europa League trophy, they hadn’t won the UEFA Cup either, as the Premier League side beat Ajax 2-0 in the final.
On Tuesday night the two sides were back in the spotlight in Europe, both playing in Champions League quarter finals, with very different results. United were dominated by Barcelona and crashed out 4-0 on aggregate whilst Ajax pulled off a brilliant 2-1 win away to Juventus to go through to the semis.
The Dutch side’s win came as a shock despite the fact they’d beaten Real Madrid in the previous round and you’d now look silly to bet against them whoever they come up against.
United on the other hand were expected to lose and did so, quite handily, and proved once again how far they are from where they should be.
The fortunes of the two sides being so opposite brought into perspective what the two sides have done since that final in the Friends Arena:
The young talent on display for Ajax was incredible, especially in the form of Matthijs de Ligt and Frenkie de Jong, and the improvement in Dusan Tadic since leaving Southampton was also evident.
How Ole Gunnar Solskjaer would have loved to have been able to call on the talents of Daley Blind too, who was sold back to Ajax last summer by Jose Mourinho.
Instead four of United’s back five had also played in the loss to Basel in 2011, when they crashed out of the Champions League at the group stages, with Phil Jones, Ashley Young, Chris Smalling and David de Gea starting both games.
Quite how the Red Devils have been allowed to get to this position will be beyond most people and clearly there’s a lot of work to be done in the summer for Solskjaer.
Erik ten Hag’s team have now beaten the reigning European champions and one of the other favourites on the way to the semi final and will have no reason to fear anyone else.
They face either Spurs or Manchester City in the semi final. Two years after a Europa League loss and selling a lot of players off since, can they make a Champions League final?