Eredivisie predictor Michael Statham gives his thoughts for one more match this season – the Europa League final between Ajax and English giants Manchester United.

  • By Michael Statham
  • Follow Michael on Twitter @EredivisieMike

In my opinion, the Europa League final will be more captivating than usual. Most often dispel Europe’s second tier competition as having a lack of quality and entertainment, but this season’s flood of goals and excitement begs to differ.

Of course, the final will be extremely tough to predict, but the clash of the two highly separable styles of play that both Ajax and Manchester United possess may make the difference.

Ajax play with ambition. They look to impress a crowd with high intensity passing and movement that unhinges opposition with ease. United, on the other hand, under Mourinho’s guidance are strong, solid and reserved, with a glittering of quality and pace in attack.

Another key factor in the game is expected to be the fitness of squads. Mourinho’s bemoaning of fixture pile up (whilst being petty) is the harsh reality of playing European football, and Ajax have certainly had longer to prepare for the Stockholm finale.

What’s more, the Red Devils have been struck by a mini injury crisis. Three names definitely ruled out for United are Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Ashley Young and Luke Shaw, as well as the suspended Eric Bailly. Racing for fitness before the game are Marouane Fellaini, Chris Smalling and record signing Paul Pogba.

Meanwhile Ajax have almost a clean bill of health, with only Daley Sinkgraven (knee) and the Nick Viergever (suspended) missing.

But, how will an inexperienced Ajax manage to beat the pragmatic United?

Mourinho has won 11 cup finals out of 13 competed, and is clever when it comes to getting results. On the other hand, Peter Bosz has only won two competitions in his managerial career: the second and third tier titles with Heracles and AGOVV respectively. That said, Bosz does boast three cup wins and a title success with Feyenoord as a player.

Thus whilst Bosz isn’t totally outshined by Mourinho in terms of career prizes, United fans will hope the so called “Special One” can scheme another victory in a trophy-laden career.

Arguably, when peering at both teams’ routes to Stockholm, Ajax have had the tougher run. Lyon and Schalke proved stern tests to the Dutch side’s resolve, plus Bosz’s men made light work of Celta Vigo in the group stages, earning a comfortable home win and an entertaining away draw in the group stages. An opponent that made life very difficult indeed for United in the semi-final at Old Trafford.

The styles of play from both sides are once more evident in their league campaign records. The Red Devils possessed the second best defence in the Premier League behind only Tottenham Hotspur, although United also scored less goals than Bournemouth. A peek at Ajax’s Eredivisie form proves tricky to make judgement, given the relative strength of the leagues. However, defensively, the Dutch giants appear weaker. 17 goals conceded in all Europa League games this season, compared to United’s eight.

On the positive side for Ajax, they have plenty of ammunition to outgun their opponents. A key man in my opinion is Hakim Ziyech, who can create a chance from any angle of the pitch with his exceptional passing, creativity and eye for goal – even if sometimes his finishing is lacking.

It’s players like Ziyech and Klaassen offering goals from midfield that make me lean towards a Both Teams To Score bet in 90 minutes. For sure, Ajax have a goal in them, plus at some point the Amsterdammers are likely to come under pressure, and games with Lyon and Schalke conveyed cracks in the Ajax defence can creak. The likes of Marcus Rashford, Jesse Lingard and Anthony Martial may all start and offer pace and a way through Ajax. Don’t forget the typical English team threat from set-pieces when a goal is needed late in the game.

For that reason, I can see at least a couple of goals in normal time and extra-time being a tense affair. Remember, Mourinho has never lost a final in 90 minutes. He will do his homework on Ajax and find a plan to stifle threats and pick at weaknesses in the backline.

After the 120 minutes, I would not be able to pick a winner from penalties. That is impossible to predict!

Michael’s prediction: 1-1 (Someone to win on penalties!)

Michael also gave a preview of Ajax’s squad here:

How did I do this season?

Week 1: 4 results

Week 2: 3 results, 1 correct score

Week 3: 4 results, 1 correct score

Week 4: 6 results, 1 correct score

Week 5: 6 results, 2 correct scores

Week 6: 4 results, 2 correct scores

Week 7: 3 results

Week 8:  7 results, 3 correct scores

Week 9: 4 results, 1 correct score

Week 10: 5 results, 2 correct scores

Week 11: 3 results

Week 12: 2 results, 1 correct score

Week 13: 4 results

Week 14: 6 results

Week 15: 4 results

Week 16: 5 results (versus writer Michael Bell)

Week 17: 2 results (versus writer James Rowe)

Week 18: 5 results (versus Aston Villa player Leandro Bacuna)

Week 19: 5 results

Week 20: 4 results, 1 correct score (versus Football Manager Head Researcher Jeroen Thijssen)

Week 21: 4 results (versus Eredivisie tipster Crypto)

Week 22: 6 results, 2 correct scores (versus commentator Richard Connelly)

Week 23: 7 results, 2 correct scores

Week 24: 6 results, 1 correct score (versus commentator Mark van Rijswijk)

Week 25: 2 results, 1 correct score (versus commentator Michiel Teeling)

Week 26: 5 results (versus writer Michael Bell)

Week 27: 4 results (versus Eredivisie tipster Crypto)

Week 28: 5 results, 2 correct scores (versus Eredivisie tipster TipsterFromHolland)

Week 29: 5 results (versus writer James Rowe)

Week 30: 3 results (versus commentator Paul Thomas Clay)

Week 31: 4 results (versus Eredivisie tipster Crypto)

Week 32: 6 results, 3 correct scores (versus Stoke City defender Erik Pieters)

Week 33: 4 results, 2 correct scores (versus writer Mark Neale)

Week 34: 6 results, 2 correct scores (versus Football Manager Head Researcher Jeroen Thijssen)

Michael Statham (816 Posts)

Writer/interviewer/YouTuber for Football-Oranje. Massive Dutch football fan from the UK. Follow me @EredivisieMike & subscribe to Football-Oranje on YouTube.