Tuesday 23 May 2017

Europa League preview: AFC Ajax v United

United fly to Stockholm for the Europa League final in a match overshadowed by the tragic events that took place in Manchester city centre on Monday. 

22 people - many of them children - were killed in a terrorist bombing at the end of Ariana Grande's concert at the Manchester Arena, with a further 64 badly injured. 

Both sets of players will wear black armbands against Ajax in memory of those who lost their lives with a minute's silence to be held before kick off.
Manager Jose Mourinho cancelled his pre-final media conference out of respect.

The United squad held a minute's silence for the victims in their final training sessions before flying out to the Swedish capital on Tuesday. 

Speaking in a statement, Jose said: "Everyone at the club is deeply shocked and saddened about the tragic incident that happened last night - we cannot take out of our hearts and minds the victims, and their families.
"We have a job to do and we will fly to Sweden to do that job, it is a terrible shame that we do not feel any happiness that we always have before a big game.
"I know, even during my short time here, that the people of Manchester will all pull together as one."

Sergio Romero has been United's first choice throughout the European campaign and will keep his place in goal for the showpiece.
Marouane Fellaini and Chris Smalling both picked up knocks against Southampton but trained with the squad and are expected to feature.
Smalling's probable availability comes as a boost to United's defensive personnel as the Reds are already without Marcos Rojo (knee) and Eric Bailly (suspended). 

United have no new injury concerns for the 64th game of an epic season that is the biggest of the lot and the club's most important since 2013. 

Europe's second-tier tournament is the only major honour missing from the club's collection and victory would see United complete the set - and seal a direct passage into the group stages of next season's Champions League. 

Much has been made of the difficult challenge of Peter Bosz's emerging, young, vibrant Ajax side. 

With an average age of 21 and built on the highly talented products of their famed youth academy, they've taken Europe by storm and won many plaudits for their easy-on-the-eye style. 

Let's go and win this final for the city and the grieving, heartbroken people of Manchester. A City United. 

Form guide: Ajax L L W W L W United W L D L D W 
Match odds: Ajax 7/2 Draw 13/5 United 5/6 
Referee: Damir Skomina (Slovenia)

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