UEFA Europa League novice? Brief guide to the final
On Wednesday, Ajax and Manchester United meet in this season’s UEFA Europa League final. It takes place at the Friends Arena (named after an anti-bullying campaign) in Stockholm, Sweden.
What should I expect?
With Ajax it’s almost impossible to predict. At times this season they’ve been irresistible, playing like a bunch of uber-talented kids (which they are) having a kickaround at the park, attacking teams into submission; on other occasions they have looked a little lost. United are more battle-hardened, prepared to dig in and wait for their chance.
Who should I watch out for?
For a final in Sweden? The stage is set for Zlatan Ibrahimović but injury denies him, and us, that pleasure. There’s no shortage of talent on either side, though. There’s big-money signing Paul Pogba and local hero Marcus Rashford for United, or how about new Germany call-up Amin Younes and deadly 19-year-old Danish striker Kasper Dolberg for Ajax?
What time does it all kick-off?
Kick-off is Wednesday at 20:45CEST (11:45 Los Angeles, 14:45 New York, 15:45 Sao Paulo, 19:45 in Manchester/Lagos; Thursday 00:15 New Dehli, 02:45 Manila, 04:45 Sydney).
Is it decided on the night?
It will be. If it’s level after 90 minutes then there will be extra time (15 minutes each way) and then, if it’s still all-square, there will be penalties. Now, UEFA is this summer trialling a new shoot-out format but any spot kicks here will take the traditional route: coin toss to decide who goes first and then take it in turns.
What prize is on offer?
First and foremost, a trophy of real beauty. The winners will receive it on the pitch and the first challenge is how to hold it – the heaviest of all UEFA silverware, tipping the scales at 15kg, has no handles. The victors also earn a coveted place in next season’s UEFA Champions League group stage, a UEFA Super Cup date with Real Madrid or Juventus on 8 August and an expected €6.5m in prize money.
Facts to casually slip into conversation
Lasse Schöne is the only member of this Ajax team born the last time the club won the UEFA Cup in 1992 (note: Joël Veltman spoils this nugget if he plays, even if he would only have been four months old).
It’s amazing to think that if United win, it will be José Mourinho’s fourth major European trophy. That puts him alongside Sir Alex Ferguson, Nereo Rocco and Bob Paisley. Mourinho is only 54 so Giovanni Trapattoni (who managed five) may be getting nervous.