Manchester United gave their grieving home city a moment to cheer by winning the Europa League yesterday, beating Ajax 2-0 in the final thanks to goals by Paul Pogba and Henrikh Mkhitaryan.Pogba pointed to the sky as he was mobbed by teammates after his 18th-minute opening goal. The game was played two days after 22 people were killed in a bomb attack at a concert in Manchester, and 12 days after the death of Pogba’s father, Fassou Antoine.Mkhitaryan scored the second goal in the 48th minute, hooking the ball in from close range from a corner.
The win earned United the bonus prize of a place in next season’s Champions League and meant coach Jose Mourinho finished his first season at England’s biggest club with two trophies. United also won the English League Cup in February.United’s players flew to Sweden in a sombre mood and with heavy hearts following the tragedy at an Ariana Grande concert on Monday, and were determined to produce a display that served as a tribute to the victims and their families.
That they succeeded in doing so was a testament to their strength of character.The planned pre-match one minute’s silence in honour of the victims rapidly turned into 60 seconds of applause, during which United’s fans chanted “Manchester, Manchester”. Both teams wore black armbands for the match in another mark of respect and both sets of fans came together, mingling happily outside the stadium and in the city centre before the match.
The game was billed as a clash between the pragmatism of Mourinho’s United against the swagger and youthful exuberance of an Ajax side featuring six players aged 21 or under and in the club’s first European final in 21 years.