Wednesday, May 24, 2017 11:24 pm
Paul Pogba and Henrikh Mkhitaryan scored a goal in each half for Manchester United to outclass Ajax Amsterdam on Wednesday to win an emotional UEFA Europa League final 2-0.
The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that victory ensured Manchester United qualified for the group stages of next season’s European Champions League.
There was silence and then applause before the game to honour the victims of Monday’s deadly attack at a pop concert in Manchester in which 22 people died.
Both sides then played a final full of pride and passion at the Friends Arena in Stockholm, Sweden.
World record signing Pogba opened the scoring in the 18th minute as United won the ball after an Ajax throw-in.
The Frenchman’s shot took a wicked deflection to wrong-foot goalkeeper Andre Onana and fly into the net.
Mkhitaryan then flicked the ball home early in the second half following a Manchester United corner kick.
With chants of “Manchester! Manchester!” echoing around the stadium, United held on to win the only European trophy missing from the Old Trafford cabinet.
“We know things like this are very sad all over the world,” said Pogba after the match, referring to the attack.
“We had to focus. Manchester – we won for them. We played for England, we played for Manchester and we played for them — the people who died.’’
“The goal was to win all the way through this season. We’ve done it, and we’re proud,” said Pogba.
“People say we’ve had a bad season but the prize is great and we’ve done it now. We have three trophies so enjoy it now,” he added.
United’s triumph followed success in the League Cup and the Community Shield in Jose Mourinho’s first season in charge at Old Trafford.
NAN reports that UEFA Champions League football is also secured after United could only manage a sixth-place finish in the Premier League.
United, wearing all blue as they did in winning the 1968 European Cup, made an imposing start, with Pogba whistling a shot wide of the near post within the first minute.
He was all over the pitch, appearing as a third centre back one moment to head the ball away from danger, channelling pinpoint passes to striker Marcus Rashford the next.
The France midfielder, who first came to United at the age of 16 before leaving for Juventus, put his side ahead with a hopeful low shot from the edge of the area.
The shot was sent looping past Onana in the Ajax goal, thanks to a huge deflection from Davinson Sanchez.
Mourinho’s coaching staff flew out of the dugout in celebration but the Portuguese stayed calm.
Ajax, fielding the youngest starting line-up in a European final, were expected to make a quick start as they did in their 4-1 win over Olympique Lyonnais.
Instead the Dutch side was fenced in by United, nullified by Marouane Fellaini and man of the match Ander Herrera in the middle and stretched by Rashford’s darting runs.
They rarely threatened during the first half and were given no time to settle in the second as Mkhitaryan reacted fastest to Chris Smalling’s knockdown from a corner kick.
The Armenian leapt to knock the ball into the roof of the net after 48 minutes.
Ajax hogged the ball for the rest of the match but rarely looked like getting past Manchester United.
United saw the game out to preserve Mourinho’s 100 per cent record in European finals and deliver the continental trophy missing from their collection.