Monday 22 May 2017

Stockholm final to determine success or failure in Jose's first season

United's season boils down to the 90 minutes against Ajax in the Europa League final in Stockholm on Wednesday.

After a demanding eight month and fifteen match European campaign, the team face the Dutch giants bidding to win the only major trophy missing from our club's glittering trophy cabinet.

It's the 64th match of a topsy turvy season and by far United's biggest and most important since Sir Alex stepped down in 2013. 

Whether Jose Mourinho's first season at the helm is a success or a failure hinges on the result of the Reds seventh European final in the Swedish capital.

Win, and the campaign would be one of the best in the club's recent history with two trophies in the bag and a return to the Champions League group stage. 
That would be a resounding success for Jose in his first season -  better, indeed, than anyone except Antonio Conte's domestic-double chasing Chelsea.

Lose, and serious questions would have to be asked after another underwhelming Premier League campaign and another year outside of Europe's elite club competition for the third time in four seasons - with only an EFL Cup to show for it. 

Lose, and Jose must be prepared to face the criticism that will inevitably come his way. 

He can claim to have been dealt a cruel hand with the injuries to Zlatan and Marcos Rojo against Anderlecht but his decision to prioritise the Europa League will only be vindicated with victory.

Having rested and rotated many of his senior men in the final weeks of the league season in preparation for the showpiece, there can be no excuses should we fail to deliver.
Physical and mental fatigue may have been a legitimate reason for some of the below-par performances a month or two back but the squad should now be in the best possible shape.

Ajax have taken the competition by storm and have won many plaudits for their eye-catching style, despite a team with an average age of a mere 20.
Their side has been built primarily on products from their famed academy, and the added experience and relative veteran status of United's team could tip the balance in their favour.

It's difficult to know what to expect from the Dutch side.

Youthful and inexperienced, Ajax could freeze on the big stage in the biggest match of many of their young players careers.
In contrast they could thrive without fear in their role as the underdog - in the semi-final against Celta, it was United that were gripped by a nervous anxiety. 

It's a one-off match in which anything can happen, and United, and Jose, will be judged on the outcome.

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