In the Amsterdam Arena, Manchester United virtually assured their progression to the next round of the Europa League with a fine 2-0 win over Ajax.
For the fixture, Sir Alex Ferguson, aware United have no Premier League games until a week on Saturday, was able to field a very strong side. Back into the starting eleven came Jones, Young, Hernandez and the returning from injury Tom Cleverley. Unfortunately, those wishing to see Giggs rack up appearance number 900 were to be disappointed with the United star not making the eighteen selected for the fixture.
United – De Gea, Jones, Evans, Ferdinand, Fabio, Nani, Cleverley, Carrick, Young, Rooney, Hernandez
Subs – Amos, Smalling, Park, Scholes, Valencia, Pogba, Welbeck
First Half – The first forty-five minutes were a mixed bag. Both teams seemed reluctant to press each other until they were in the opponents half. A couple of early corners came to nothing with one from Nani being particularly woeful and going straight behind for a goal-kick.
Eriksen, a reputed United target, forced the home sides first corner but the head of Nani cleared any impending danger. Jones, having lost possession, was relieve dot see De Gea save a weak shot from Koppers whilst Rooney saw Verneer easily cope with a shot from a long way out.
Verneer had to be alert to run out and smother the ball as Hernandez threatened before Bulykin, for Ajax, saw a shot blocked. Nani, in a good position, cutting into the area, chose to go for glory and blazed over, much to the disgust of Rooney before De Jong provided the brightest moment of the half so far unleashing a blistering, swerving drive that De Gea pushed around the post.
De Jong then saw a header flash over as the home side started to exert some pressure. Eriksen, looking lively, saw a long range shot go straight to De Gea before, on a United excursion forward, Fabio slipped a delightful ball into the danger area that evaded everyone. Right on the stroke of half time the home support screamed for a penalty after a challenge from Ferdinand but the referee was having none of it.
Half Time – Ajax 0 United 0
Second Half Sir Alex Ferguson probably had some harsh words for his team at half time as they cam eout for the second half all fired up with spectacular results. With the same eleven on the pitch, United swept forward. Verneer was forced to tip over a rasping shot from Nani whilst a smart jink from Young left the defender treading water but, once again, the ball into the box evaded everyone.
Fabio, as a move broke down, quite rightly received a yellow card for a crude challenge before a cross in from Nani saw a home defender out jump Rooney, get a touch to the ball with his head and watch in relief as his own keeper just about managed to scoop the header around the base of the post for a corner.
De Jong received the second caution of the game for a crude challenge on Young but the former Aston Villa player was to have the last laugh, just before the hour mark when he put United ahead. Nani pulled the ball back and Young, appearing to be taking too much time initially, cut inside to slip his shot through the keepers` legs and into the net.
Ajax 0 United 1 (Young – 59 minutes)
Fabio`s error allowed Ozbiliz the chance to reply but his effort ballooned over the bar. United saw a claim for a free kick waved away after Young threw himself to the floor after having his shirt pulled (shades of Stamford Bridge) before a fine run from Eriksen saw De Gea pull off a good save.
Sir Alex decided that Young had done enough and replaced him with Valencia and Ajax almost pulled level but Sulemani shot straight at De Gea. Five minutes form the end United doubled their lead when Valencia combined with Rooney for Hernandez to be set up to score a delightful finish.
Ajax 0 United 2 (Hernandez – 85 minutes)
Unfortunately, it was to be Valencia`s last piece of the action as in setting up the goal he pulled a hamstring, Welbeck came on in his place.
With the ground fast emptying the job was done and all that remains is the formality of the second leg, at Old Trafford, next Thursday evening.
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