Belfast Telegraph

Manchester United win Europa League with Ajax victory and book Champions League spot

Manchester United have won the Europa League with a 2-0 win over Ajax to secure Champions League qualification.

Mourinho's men stepped away from the brouhaha that normally surrounds the build-up and wore black armbands in Stockholm, where a minute's silence quickly turned into applause.

Stockholm knows all too well the impact of such an attack as just last month five people were killed by a hijacked truck in the city centre, meaning security around the game had already been beefed up.

Armed police patrolled the perimeter of a ground that witnessed United's 64th match of a draining campaign, with the Europa League taking them more than 15,000 miles.

There were surprisingly few signs of lethargy early on, though.

Pogba's volley wide after 24 seconds was a shot across the bows for an Ajax defence dragged all over by Marcus Rashford.

The Dutch giants were relieved to see Juan Mata's fizzing cross evade Marouane Fellaini before they flickered into life, with Sergio Romero, selected ahead of David De Gea, denying Bertrand Traore.

Yet hope was soon dampened as within minutes Ajax's first major European final in 21 years became an uphill battle.

Neat play down the right ended with Pogba collecting the ball on the edge of the box. The Frenchman opened up his body and took a low 20-yard shot that deflected off Sanchez, wrong-footing goalkeeper Andre Onana and rippling the back of the net.

United's travelling hordes erupted as Pogba punched his chest, celebrating a goal that captain Antonio Valencia soon attempted to add to with a driving run and shot.

That was the last chance of note United would muster as Ajax began to settle, although dawdling Sanchez was fortunate not to be picked off by Rashford.

Daley Blind brought a timely end to a slaloming run by Traore as the Dutch side were afforded too much time in possession, but a lack of cutting edge meant they were unable to take advantage.

United re-grouped at the break and capitalised three minutes after the restart.

Chris Smalling rose to meet a corner from the right, heading on for Mkhitaryan to smartly lift into the roof of the net in front of United's raucous support.

Any building tension was released and Ajax struggled to respond to the second-half sucker punch, with Fellaini trying to compound matters with a header saved by Onana.

Tempers began to fray on the touchline after a late Mata challenge, while substitute Jesse Lingard was denied a late goal by Sanchez's recovery challenge.

Donny van de Beek was unable to truly test Romero as Ajax looked to claw back a consolation, but it was not to be for Amsterdam side.

Wayne Rooney came on for the dying embers and was handed the captain's armband by Valencia, celebrating wildly with his team-mates at the final whistle.

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