The Europa League Final is looming and the stakes couldn’t be higher for both Manchester United and Ajax. For the latter, it is a return to the big stage of European football. The Dutch masters haven’t won a European trophy since the 1995 UEFA Super Cup, which followed their 1994-95 Champions League triumph.
The Europa League Final isn’t just a chance to return to Europe’s elite for Manchester United, but it is a chance for Jose Mourinho to prove the team’s season hasn’t been a bust. Of course, fans will cite the English League Cup as proof the season was not a failure. Yet, after the signings of Paul Pogba and Zlatan Ibrahimovic last summer, many would disagree.
Manchester United’s success or failure to win the Europa League Final will affect each players’ contract. The club’s 22-man first team squad would see significant pay cuts if Manchester United miss out on the Champions League once more. Wednesday’s winner will automatically qualify for next season’s competition, and the entire club have a tidy sum riding on that qualification.
What happens if they don’t win in Stockholm?
If Manchester United fail to win Wednesday night’s final, all players earning £20,000 or more per week will see a large cut in their weekly salaries. Up to 25% of a player’s wages will be cut due to the pay structure worked into contracts. A player earning £20,000 a week would have his salary lowered to £15,000 next term, and so on. Pogba and Ibrahimovic are reportedly due to lose out on £9 million, if the team do not win the Europa League Final.
The players having their wages slashed isn’t the only bad news for Manchester United as kit supplier Adidas would pay 30% less in sponsorship money next season. The sportswear company current pays the Red Devils a whopping £75m a season to supply their kits.
Manchester United and Ajax have met four times before with the two sides splitting those matches two wins apiece. The last time the two sides met was in 2012 during the Europa League’s round of 32. The Red Devils went through on aggregate, 3-2, before being knocked out of the tournament by eventual runners-up Athletic Bibao.
Key Stats and Facts
- United won once in their last six Premier League matches, scoring just four goals.
- Ajax finished second in the Dutch league, and have qualified for next season’s Champions League.
- Ajax scored 79 goals during the domestic season while United tallied 54.
- United lost just twice in the Europa League, both times in the group stage. Ajax have lost three times, all in the knock out phrase.
- United will be without top striker Zlatan Ibrahimovic who is out injured. Despite missing several games due to injury, Ibrahimovic still led the team with 17 goals.
Manchester United don’t just have the weight of their Champions League qualification and finances on their shoulders, but the team also have the expectations of a city to worry about. Monday night’s terror attack in Manchester have left the city’s nerves frayed, and many will be looking to United to take their minds off of the tragedy that occurred.
- Marcus Rashford is United’s third leading scored this season with five goals. The 19-year-old scored a sensational free-kick against Celta Vigo in the semifinal first leg, and set up United’s goal in the second leg.
- Kasper Dolberg, dubbed the next Zlatan, is Ajax’s leading scorer with 16 goals, while adding six assists. The striker is valued at £20m and will most likely leave Amsterdam this summer.
Wednesday night’s Europa League Final is set to be a barn burner. Two European greats will do battle, and one will return to the place they once were perched. The other will spend a summer trying to figure out where everything went wrong.
What do the bookies say?
According to sports betting website Bovada, Manchester United are the favourite to win the Europa League at -250. Ajax comes in at +200.