Can an exciting young Ajax side win their first continental silverware in 22 years, or will José Mourinho’s Manchester United pick up the final trophy to complete their European set? The 2017 UEFA Europa League final will decide.
• This is the clubs’ fifth meeting in UEFA competitions; the past four produced two wins for each side.
• The teams first met in the 1976/77 UEFA Cup first round; Ruud Krol’s first-leg goal gave Tomislav Ivić’s Ajax a 1-0 lead to take to Old Trafford, but Lou Macari and Sammy McIlroy struck as Tommy Docherty’s side won the return leg 2-0.
• Their most recent encounters were in the 2011/12 UEFA Europa League round of 32. Ashley Young and Javier Hernández scored in the Amsterdam first leg as Sir Alex Ferguson’s men won 2-0. ‘Chicharito’ extended their lead in the return fixture, but Aras Özbiliz equalised and Toby Alderweireld made it 2-1 to the visitors on the night – though United still won the tie.
• Current Red Devils Young, Phil Jones, Chris Smalling and David de Gea all featured in that 2011/12 tie for United (while Paul Pogba, in his first spell at the club, was on the bench for the first leg).
• Ajax have marginally outscored United en route to the final: 24-23 – but they have conceded far more goals, 15 to United’s eight.
• Ajax are without a victory in their last six European games away from the Amsterdam ArenA: D3 L3 – three draws followed by three defeats.
• United are unbeaten in ten European matches (W7 D3) since a 2-1 loss at Fenerbahçe in this season’s UEFA Europa League group stage.
• Ajax have had more attempts on goal (225) and attempts on target (95) than any other team in this season’s tournament. United have had 208 attempts on goal, 76 of them on target.
• United have attempted (7,582) and completed (6,702) the most passes in this season’s UEFA Europa League. Ajax have attempted 6,033 passes, 5,142 finding their target.
• Ajax have committed more fouls (236) and received more yellow (45) and red (4) cards than any other side in this season’s UEFA Europa League. United have been penalised 176 times, with 21 bookings and two red cards.
Links and trivia
• Ajax’s Bertrand Traoré is on loan with the club from United’s English rivals Chelsea. The Burkina Faso forward made his Chelsea debut under José Mourinho in a 4-0 UEFA Champions League group stage win against Maccabi Tel-Aviv in September 2015.
• Ajax’s Justin Kluivert is the son of former Netherlands striker Patrick Kluivert – who scored Ajax’s winner in the 1995 UEFA Champions League final. Kluivert Sr played United three times with Newcastle in his sole Premier League season, 2004/05, and lost all three games: 2-1 away and 3-1 at home in the league, and 4-1 on neutral territory in the FA Cup semi-finals.
• Absent through injury, United’s Zlatan Ibrahimović made his professional breakthrough at Ajax from 2001–04, lifting two Eredivisie titles and a Dutch Cup. He is the only Swedish player eligible to play in the final in Stockholm.
• United’s Daley Blind will be up against his – and his father’s – old club, the academy graduate having won four league championships with Ajax from 2008–14.
• Blind and Ajax’s Davy Klaassen played together at the Friends Arena in a 1-1 draw against Sweden on 6 September 2016.
• United’s 2008 UEFA Champions League-winning goalkeeper Edwin van der Sar is now back at Ajax as the club’s general director.
• United goalkeeper Sergio Romero played in the Netherlands with AZ Alkmaar from 2017–11, landing the title in 2008/09. Ajax’s Nick Viergever was a team-mate of his during the 2010/11 campaign.
• Amsterdam-born defender Timothy Fosu-Mensah progressed through the youth ranks at his home-town team before joining Manchester United in 2014.
• Ajax goalkeeper Andre Onana has played 1,200 minutes of UEFA Europa League football this term: more than any other player, with Amin Younes (1,197) and Pogba (1,173) his closest rivals. Younes and Pogba are the only finalists who have played in all 14 of their sides’ games in this season’s competition.
• Zenit’s Giuliano and Roma’s Edin Džeko top the 2016/17 UEFA Europa League scorers chart with eight goals each. Ajax’s leading marksman Kasper Dolberg has hit six, while Zlatan Ibrahimović and Henrikh Mkhitaryan have been United’s top scorers with five each.
• Pogba leads the way in terms of passes attempted (953) and completed (840) in this season’s UEFA Europa League.
• United’s Eric Bailly is the lone player to have been dismissed twice in this season’s UEFA Europa League. Ajax’s Joel Veltman, meanwhile, is the 2016/17 campaign’s most booked player, with six yellow cards.
• Dolberg has been Ajax’s most fouled player in this season’s competition (25 against him), with Pogba (20) the target of the most rough challenges for United.
• Should he play in the final and win, United’s Michael Carrick will become the oldest UEFA Europa League winner, at 35 years and 300 days, taking over from Frank Lampard (34 years and 329 days old the day of Chelsea’s 2013 success). Eduardo Salvio (19 years and 303 days old when Atlético triumphed in 2010) is the current youngest winner. Other Ajax players could assume the mantle if 17-year-old defender Matthijs de Ligt does not play.
The Swedish connection
• Ajax have played two UEFA matches in Sweden with the record W1 L1; they lost 1-0 at Malmö in a 1987 European Cup Winners’ Cup fixture, then won 1-0 at Örebro in a 1991 UEFA Cup game.
• This is United’s first UEFA assignment in Stockholm, though they drew 1-1 against Djurgården at the Råsunda Stadium – which was torn down to build the Friends Arena – in the 1965 Inter-Cities Fairs Cup, the non-UEFA affiliated predecessor of the UEFA Cup/UEFA Europa League.
• United’s only previous UEFA fixture in Sweden ended in a 3-1 defeat at IFK Göteborg in the 1994/95 UEFA Champions League group stage. Jesper Blomqvist, who scored for IFK that night, later featured for United in their 1999 UEFA Champions League final success.
• An English team triumphed in the sole previous major UEFA men’s final staged in Stockholm, Chelsea beating Stuttgart 1-0 at the Råsunda Stadium to take the 1998 UEFA Cup Winners’ Cup.
• The game is taking place 22 years to the day since Ajax claimed their last major European trophy, overcoming AC Milan 1-0 in the 1995 UEFA Champions League final.
• This is Ajax’s tenth major UEFA final, and their first since they lost on penalties to Juventus in the 1996 UEFA Champions League final.
• United have lost their last three UEFA finals (the 2008 UEFA Super Cup – L2-1 v Zenit, the 2009 UEFA Champions League – L2-0 v Barcelona, and the 2011 UEFA Champions League – L3-1 v Barcelona). Their most recent final victory came on penalties against Chelsea in the 2008 UEFA Champions League decider.
• United have not won an international club final inside 90 minutes since they beat Palmeiras 1-0 in Tokyo in the European/South American Cup in November 1999, Roy Keane the scorer.
• United are looking to join Ajax, Bayern, Chelsea and Juventus in completing a full set of major UEFA club trophies (UEFA Champions League, UEFA Cup Winners’ Cup, UEFA Cup/UEFA Europa League) with victory in Stockholm.
• Should they win, Ajax will complete a unique set of trophy successes, as the only side to have lifted the major UEFA competitions in both of their forms. They have won Europe’s top prize as the European Cup (1971, 1972 and 1973) and the UEFA Champions League (1995), and won the UEFA Cup in 1992. Porto are the only team to have won both the UEFA Cup (2003)/UEFA Europa League (2011) and the European Cup (1987)/UEFA Champions League (2004), but they never won the Cup Winners’ Cup.
• United and Ajax are both appearing in their first UEFA Europa League final; they are the 11th and 12th clubs to reach this stage, and the victor at the Friends Arena will be the fifth side to win the competition – after Sevilla (three titles), Atlético Madrid (two), Porto and Chelsea (one each).
• United are the fourth English side to reach the final since the UEFA Europa League replaced the UEFA Cup, which is the most for any nation. There have been three finalists each from Spain and Portugal.
• Ajax are the first Dutch club to reach the UEFA Europa League final, making the Netherlands just the fifth different nation to be represented in the fixture.
• A Dutch title winner as a midfielder with Feyenoord, Peter Bosz returned from Israel to take charge of Ajax in May 2016. He has managed Heracles and Vitesse in the Netherlands, also briefly coaching Maccabi Tel-Aviv.
• José Mourinho took over as United boss last summer. Having made his name winning the UEFA Cup and UEFA Champions League with Porto, he landed Europe’s top club prize again with Internazionale Milano as well as three Premier League titles during two stints at Chelsea.
• In Mourinho’s last foray in this competition, he steered Porto to the 2003 UEFA Cup final, where they edged Celtic 3-2 in Seville.
• Mourinho faced Ajax five times as Real Madrid coach, winning all five games by an aggregate score of 17-2.
• Mourinho has won all three of his major UEFA finals. This is Bosz’s first major European decider.
• Whoever wins will be the oldest coach to win the UEFA Europa League, a title currently held by Rafael Benítez, who won it aged 53 years and 21 days with Chelsea in 2013. Bosz will be 53 years and 184 days old the day of the final, while Mourinho will be 54 years and 118 days old.
• Mourinho could also match Benítez’s achievement in becoming the second coach to win the UEFA Cup and the UEFA Europa League, Benítez having prevailed with Valencia (2004) and Chelsea (2013).
• Ajax’s record in five UEFA penalty shoot-outs is W1 L4:
L 4-2 A v Steaua (2012/13 UEFA Europa League round of 32)
L 4-2 N v Juventus (1995/96 UEFA Champions League final)
W 4-3 N v Grêmio (1995 European/South American Cup)
L 4-2 A v Bohemians Praha (1984/85 UEFA Cup second round)
L 5-3 A v Levski (1975/76 UEFA Cup third round)
• United’s record in three UEFA penalty shoot-outs is W1 L2:
L 5-4 A v Videoton FC (1984/85 UEFA Cup quarter-finals)
L 4-3 A v FC Torpedo Moskva (1992/93 UEFA Cup first round)
W 6-5 N v Chelsea FC (2007/08 UEFA Champions League final)