Mourinho’s Europa League Gamble to Pay Dividends

Manchester United can qualify for the Champions League via the Europa League.

Jose Mourinho is the first Manchester United manager to win a trophy in his debut season and the Special One can make those pundits who think he is not doing a great job look even more ridiculous by leading the Red Devils to UEFA Europa League glory and UEFA Champions League action.

Mourinho knows the value of a trophy in his first season at a club and, as one forecast long before the English Football League Cup competition kicked off, Manchester United should have been the favourite to win that particular tournament because of the Special One’s past. It should have not have been a surprise to anyone that Manchester United took the English Football League more seriously than the rest of the English Premier League big boys and it beat Southampton 3-2 in the final, Zlatan Ibrahimovic scoring its 87th-minute winning goal. One does not understand the overwhelming love for Tottenham boss Mauricio Pochettino and the overwhelming hate for Mourinho in light of their respective honour rolls.

It would have hurt Mourinho for him to give up on Manchester United’s English Premier League campaign once it became apparent that the UEFA Europa League represented his team’s best shot at qualifying for the UEFA Champions League. It is important for sides that are rebuilding such as Manchester United to have UEFA Champions League football as a lure and, therefore, one totally gets why Mourinho rested many of his squad’s key players in the lead up to the UEFA Europa League semi-finals and now the championship match in Stockholm.

Ajax has won each of its seven UEFA Europa League home games en route to Wednesday’s final against Manchester United but the Sons of Gods have been much less impressive on the road, winning just once and that was versus a Panathinaikos team that ended the match with only nine players. What strikes one most about Ajax’s away numbers is that it has kept just one clean sheet in its nine UEFA Champions League/UEFA Europa League road games this season and it has not won at what one would call a genuine top-tier side since it shocked Manchester United 2-1 at Old Trafford five years ago and even that ended in a 2-3 aggregate loss for the Sons of Gods. The Dutch Eredivisie is one of Europe’s second-tier domestic leagues and Ajax went 1-2-1 against the division’s other decent teams, Feyenoord and PSV. One does not think that Ajax is in not Manchester United’s class even though the Red Devils are without former Sons of Gods striker Ibrahimovic because of his serious knee injury.

To put Ajax’s UEFA Champions League/UEFA Europa League away statistics into context, Manchester United is 3-2-2 in its seven UEFA Europa League matches not at Old Trafford, with the Red Devils upping their game in the knockout stage.

Manchester United is listed at odds of -118  with Marathonbet to win the UEFA Europa League final in normal time and that is one’s headline pick. Ajax defender Nick Viergever is out through suspension after being a naughty boy yet again.

Of the UEFA Europa League exotics, one likes Ajax to have more corner kicks than Manchester United at odds of +155  with 32Red, 888Sport and Unibet and, also, the Sons of Gods to go over four and a half corners at odds of -135  with the same bookmakers. Ajax is a strong corners side, irrespective of venue, whereas Manchester United’s corners numbers are a lot lower away from Old Trafford than at its home stadium. Ajax has won the corners count in four of its seven UEFA Europa League road games despite most of those raw results not going in favour of the Sons of Gods. Manchester United has been posting better raw results in its UEFA Europa League away matches than Ajax but it has won only three corners counts out of seven. Finally, one expects Ajax to play more aggressively than Manchester United on neutral territory so both corners wagers make considerable appeal.

Tips Summary

Manchester United to beat Ajax
Wednesday 24th May, 19:45 GMT
Odds:  -118

Ajax to have most corners
Wednesday 24th May, 19:45 GMT
Odds:  +155

Ajax over 4.5 corners
Wednesday 24th May, 19:45 GMT
Odds:  -135

Europa League
Europa League Final
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