There’s a saying in boxing that ‘styles make fights’, and if that is true in football as well then this Europa League final between Manchester United and Ajax could not be more intriguing.
There’s the conservative, pragmatist approach of Jose Mourinho and his United side going head-to-head with the youthful vibrancy and dynamism of Ajax, and what a picturesque location for the action to unfold: the Friends Arena in the beautiful city of Stockholm on Wednesday May 24.
1. Winning Europa League Means More Now...
The stakes could not be any higher either. Since UEFA changed the rules regarding what the winner of the Europa League could achieve, clearly motivation is a huge factor: the winner of this game in Stockholm will qualify for next season’s Champions League outright.
That’s important, because neither of these sides would necessarily have reached the continent’s premier competition in any other way. Manchester United certainly can’t as the highest they can finish in the English Premier League is fifth; outside the qualification places.
And as things stand Ajax, who finished second in the Dutch Eredivisie, would have to play a qualifier to make the Champions League group stage if they don’t win this Europa League encounter.
So, the stage is set for a thrilling finale. But where is the smart betting value to be found?
2. UEL Final Betting Odds
The bookmakers have opted for the nous and experience of Manchester United over the youthful exuberance of Ajax.
The English side are their 1.75 favourites, with the Dutch outfit available at 4.75. These odds are for the game to be won inside 90 minutes of course, and so the draw can be backed at 3.60.
To win the game by any means necessary, United are priced at 1.44 and Ajax at 2.80.
3. Ajax vs Manchester United Betting Tips
In some respects, this fixture is reminiscent of the Juventus vs Monaco clash in the Champions League semi-final. Okay, so neither side are quite as good as the team we are comparing them too, but there are definitely similarities between United and Juve (experienced, defensive in outlook, stoic manager) and Ajax and Monaco (attacking in mindset, young players, free spirited).
How did that tie pan out between Juventus and Monaco? The Italians dominated with a 4-1 aggregate victory, and it is not beyond all likelihood that a similar scenario will play out here.
Monaco struggled to find a way past the Juve defence despite being one of the continent’s most enterprising attacking outfits, and you wonder if Ajax will find the United backline a tough nut to crack too.
At the other end of the pitch, Juventus counter-attacked at pace and were clinical with the chances they created – United may be without the injured Zlatan Ibrahimovic for this one, but with messrs Rashford, Martial, Rooney, Mkhitaryan and Mata in their squad, plus Paul Pogba, they aren’t short of goalscoring options. That firepower will test the Ajax rearguard to its limits.
Jose Mourinho has built a career out of setting up his teams in the right way to win big matches, and we expect him to do so once again here. Back United to get the job done in Sweden.
Manchester United will be without top goalscorer Zlatan Ibrahimovic for this Europa League cup final played in his homeland of Sweden, but that might not matter: United should have too much nous and experience for the exciting but naïve Ajax.