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Tuesday, 23 May 2017

Europa League Final Pick 2017- Ajax vs Manchester United (May 24th)

It has been a difficult twenty-four hours in Manchester after the latest act of terror in Western Europe and some of the images have been heartbreaking.

The fact that so many kids were actively targeted is sickening and there are going to be a lot of questions to answer in the coming weeks and months as the authorities get to work in figuring out whether this was a 'lone wolf' issue or something deeper and more threatening.

You've got to feel for the families who have lost loved ones.

Football does take a back seat when things like this happen, but this is part of our lives and we should not allow any set of idiots to dictate the way we should enjoy our lives.

Manchester will be united and will remain strong in the face of what has happened.

This is my thread for the Europa League Final Pick as Ajax get set to take on Manchester United in Stockholm on Wednesday 24th May. I will be in Stockholm and so this will be the featured post until I return on Thursday evening.

Ajax vs Manchester United Europa League Final 2017

A young Ajax team have guided their club to the first European Final since playing in the Champions League Final in 1996 and they will believe they have nothing to lose in the Europa League Final. They have fallen short in the Dutch top flight by missing out on the title to Feyenoord, but Ajax have had a whole week to get that disappointment out of the system which should be easy enough when you think of what is coming up for them.

A four time European Cup winning club should not be considered a dark horse for a competition they enter, but things have changed for Ajax with the majority of young Dutch talent moving into the bigger Leagues much earlier than in the past. That made this run to the Europa League Final unexpected and Ajax were considered underdogs in the Quarter Final win over Schalke and in the Semi Final win over Lyon.

Ajax have won 3 of their last 4 games in all competitions, although looking a little further shows they have lost half of their last 6. All of those defeats have come away from the Amsterdam Arena and Ajax have not won any of their last 6 away Europa League games, while they have lost their last 3 in the Knock Out Rounds at Copenhagen, Schalke and Lyon.

Nick Viergever is suspended having been sent off at Lyon in the Semi Final Second Leg.

Expected Ajax Starting Line Up: Onana, Veltman, Sanchez, de Ligt, Riedewald, Schone, Ziyech, Klaassen, Younes, Traore, Dolberg.

Manchester United
At the moment you would probably look at this season and consider it a decent one for Manchester United, but the overall grade is going to depend on whether they can win the Europa League or not. Win the competition and you would consider two trophies and a place back in the Champions League a success, but lose and the English League Cup Final success won't be enough for people to accept the 6th place finish in the Premier League.

Some of the better performances for Manchester United have come in the Europa League this season, but there have been some nerves in the narrow wins over Anderlecht and Celta Vigo in the last two Rounds. Ever since this competition began, Manchester United have been considered the favourites to win it, although that means nothing ahead of the Final in Stockholm.

Manchester United had won none of their 4 games in all competitions since beating Celta Vigo 0-1 in the Europa League Semi Final First Leg, but they did beat Crystal Palace 2-0 to sign off in the Premier League on Sunday. They have only won 1 of their last 5 away games in all competitions, but Manchester United have won 3 of their last 5 on their travels in the Europa League.

Eric Bailly is suspended after being sent off in the Europa League Semi Final Second Leg, while the likes of Marcos Rojo, Luke Shaw and Zlatan Ibrahimovic are long-term absentees.

ExpectedManchester United Starting Line Up: Romero, Valencia, Smalling, Blind, Darmian, Fellaini, Herrera, Pogba, Mata, Mkhitaryan, Rashford.

Ajax vs Manchester United Head to Head
Manchester United and Ajax met in the 1976/77 UEFA Cup and the 2011/12 Europa League and on both occasions Manchester United won the tie on aggregate.

However, the 4 previous matches have been split with both teams winning twice each.

The Europa League Final comes from Stockholm on Wednesday and both Ajax and Manchester United have a chance to add silverware to their season as well as earning a spot in the Champions League Group Stage for the 2017/18 season.

It is a match up of the experience of Manchester United against a youthful Ajax side who have played with exuberance and the freedom of inexperience to help them through to the Final. While Manchester United have been winning ties 'professionally', Ajax have looked to push forward and score goals which has left them vulnerable at times.

The Dutch side have also been much stronger at the Amsterdam Arena than they have been on their travels in the Europa League and that could potentially be in play here. While this isn't an official away game, the fact is that Ajax have really enjoyed themselves in their own surroundings and have lost their last 3 Knock Out ties away from home at Copenhagen, Schalke and Lyon.

The inexperience which has seen Ajax play with an attacking verve akin to what Monaco have produced in the Champions League has almost caught them out in the last two Rounds of the Europa League. They were fortunate to beat Schalke in extra time in the Quarter Final and Lyon almost came all the way back from 5-1 down on aggregate in falling short 4-5 in their Semi Final.

Monaco ended up finding the defensive shape and strength of Juventus too much in their Champions League Semi Final and I can see Manchester United and Jose Mourinho try to do the same to Ajax in the Final of the Europa League. The defensive shape from Manchester United has been decent for the most part this season and Mourinho will most certainly feel Manchester United will create chances with the quality they do bring in the final third.

They have played really well away from Old Trafford in the last couple of Europa League ties, far better than they have in Manchester in those Rounds. With the quality and pace Manchester United can provide in this one in the final third, I do think they can create chances against an Ajax defence that has been vulnerable away from the Amsterdam Arena.

Don't be surprised at all to see goals in this one as Ajax won't be afraid to send a lot of men forward even if they are chasing the game. The youngsters will have plenty of pace and energy themselves to give Manchester United some problems too, especially with the defensive injuries they are dealing with, and Ajax will create their own chances.

I do think there will be goals and Manchester United might be very dangerous on the counter attack as long as they can show some of the clinical finishing that has been lacking at times. Ajax won't ever give this one up, but I think they could be undone one more time late in the game as Manchester United kill them off and win the one trophy that has been missing off their 'Roll of Honour'.

I will look for Manchester United to win this game and I will also have a separate pick on there being at least three goals shared out between these clubs in what could be a very entertaining Europa League Final.

MY PICKS: Manchester United @ 1.91 Bet Fred (2 Units)
Ajax-Manchester United Over 2.5 Goals @ 2.30 Betfair Sportsbook (2 Units)

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