AJAX 0, MAN UNITED 2
Manchester United made a winning debut in the Europa League following a hard-earned victory in Holland against Ajax
Two of the giants of European football found themselves in the competition which is the poor relations compared with the glitz of the Champion League.
After a rare failure to progress from the group phase of Europe’s elite competition, United’s consolation was a place in the Europa League where they were pitted against the once-mighty Ajax.
Second-half goals from Ashley Young and Javier Hernandez gave United victory which ought to ensure a safe passage to the last 16 as the return leg at Old Trafford appears a formality.
But there may have been a price to pay as substitute Antonio Valencia had to be substituted after only 11 minutes on the pitch with a hamstring strain which looks like keeping him on the sidelines for the next month. It could be a massive loss in United’s bid to retain their Barclays Premier League title.
Sir Alex Ferguson was satisfied with his night’s work declaring: “The first half was disappointing. It was difficult to get any rhythm and speed into our game.
“We improved in the second half and deserved the win. It’s a good result.”
United had to withstand some anxious moments in the goalless opening period as Ajax created a number of clear-cut chances.
Goalkeeper David de Gea had to be at his best to save a shot from Siem de Jong who also headed another chance over the bar.
Ajax also had a penalty appeal waved aside when Miralem Sulejmani fell over Rio Ferdinand’s leg on the edge of the box.
Young broke the deadlock just short of the hour after a spell of sustained United pressure in which Phil Jones and Hernandez had both gone close.
Nani provided the cross which took a deflection off Jan Vertonghen and landed at the feet of Young who cut inside and drove a shot between keeper Kenneth Vermeer and a defender into the centre of the goal.
Nani had two chances to increase the lead, but fired over and had another shot blocked as Ajax, who had been in with a shout for an hour, became deflated the dispirited.
The second goal five minutes time came when Valencia won the ball in midfield and that allowed Wayne Rooney and Hernandez to combine with the Mexican’s shot spinning into the net off the keeper to seal victory and complete their night’s work on a successful note.