As we approach the business end of the 2016-2017 season, it signals the arriving finals of cup competitions being played since the start of the campaign, and one such major European tournament and its final that the fans simply cannot wait for is the UEFA Europa League.
The competition’s ultimate decider is to be played on the 24th of May later this month, and it sees the mighty Manchester United square off against the young and surprising finalists Ajax. Though the Red Devils will be considered as favourites to win this tie with the squad, the manager, and the resources they possess, the speedy and youthful Ajax side will be waiting to challenge Jose Mourinho and his men, making them an opponent one absolutely cannot underestimate.
With a title on the line and European glory to follow it, here are 4 reasons which prove the final is worth waiting for:
1. Manchester United Simply Have To Win
The final has an added edge to an already mouth watering affair, as Manchester United have pinned all their hopes of playing in the Champions League next season on this particular match. After falling behind in the Premier League and almost giving up on the top 4 race, Mourinho has made it loud and clear that the Europa League is what he is after, and will not let it go.
The Portuguese boss has already guided the team to EFL Cup success earlier this season, and given their domestic position, failure to win the final will eventually result in the season being a disappointment in the eyes of many.
2. Youth vs Experience
It is a classic ‘young vs experienced’ battle, as the Dutch side have been heavily reliant on their teenage and barely adult stars to fire them further into the competition, and the players have responded in a manner many would not have expected.
Manchester United, on the other hand, spent over £150 million last summer and reeled in the best talent from around the globe to build a team hopeful of winning all competitions. While Ajax boast an unbelievably low average age squad, the Red Devils carry experience in abundance, and have talent of the highest order into the depths of their squad.
3. Marcus Rashford vs Kasper Dolberg
Both the teams are blessed with young strikers who have pace that is unmatched by the opposition defences, and finishing abilities as lethal as they come. Both teenagers carry the burden of bagging in goals for their clubs, and despite the inexperience, it is the youthful determination and skill that helps them achieve their targets week in week out.
When the two starlets step out on the same pitch later this month, the final will be blessed with some blistering forward running on both sides of the field, and it is fair to say, goals are expected to be in plenty.
4. Contrasting Domestic Forms
While Ajax ended their Dutch Eredivisie campaign by finishing second in the table – just a point below champions Feyenoord, their opponents in the final face a completely different scenario, as Manchester United sit way behind in 6th place in the Premier League, and face yet another disappointing season in the league post-Sir Alex Ferguson era.
The tie can be decided based on such forms, as Ajax might come out with high incentive to bag the Europa League after having missed out on the league title on such close margins. United, meanwhile, may come to prove a point and save their season from being labelled as completely embarrassing.
Ajax have won this competition back in 1992, and will be gunning to reclaim such an honour, while the Red Devils will look to add this decorated trophy to their illustrious cabinet for the first time in their glorious history.
It is a match that is as mouth watering on paper as they come, and we simply cannot wait for it.
Written by Vikram Gupta
An attacker with his words, and defends each of them with pride. A love for the game which goes hand in hand with his will to forever write. A graduate in the course of advertising and a hopeful to be author. Herrera for the win.