Manchester United's Chris Smalling (L) vies with Ajax Amsterdam's Donny van de Beek during the UEFA Europa League Final match between Manchester United and Ajax Amsterdam at the Friends Arena in Stockholm, Sweden, on May 24, 2017. Manchester United claimed the title by defeating Ajax Amsterdam 2-0. (Xinhua/Gong Bing)
PARIS, May 24 (Xinhua) -- Premier League side Manchester United lifted the Europa League trophy with a 2-0 victory over Ajax in the final held in Stockholm, Sweden, also securing an automatic spot in next season's UEFA Champions League group phase.
Injury-riddled Man United just finished sixth in Premier League, and had to hinge on the Europa League champion as only the league's top four could make into the Champions League.
Both sides and crowds in the Friends Arena observed one-minute silence for the victims in Manchester bomb attack Monday night.
Man United put on huge pressure after the opening whistle on the Dutch side, who almost gifted their opponents a lead one minute into the game. Ajax goalkeeper Andre Onana had a clash with his teammate in an attempt to clear the ball, while leaving an empty net in front of midfielder Paul Pogba, whose shot just went off the post.
Pogba took on a leak defense to break the deadlock for Man United on 18 minutes. Ajax, whose starting XI averaged around 22 years old, failed to concentrate on their defense against a throw ball, before Marouane Fellaini fed Pogba for a shot from outside the penalty area. It went on a deflection off defender Davinson Sanchez, and Onana made no quick response to that.
"Our goal, all the way through this season, was to win. We've done it, and we're proud of that," said Pogba, who joined the team before this season on an estimated 105 million euros as the most expensive player around the world.
Man United built a two-goal lead early in the second half on Henrikh Mkhitaryan's goal through a corner kick attack. After Chris Smalling headed the ball down, Mkhitaryan finished a brilliant hook into the net before defenders made a clearance in the 48th minute.
"The start was very important, we scored very early, then we got the second goal and we controlled the game," added Pogba.
Wayne Rooney, benched on just before stoppage time, lifted the trophy as the team captain in his probable last appearance for the Red Devil.
After sealing the victory in Europa League, formerly known as UEFA Cup, Man United have joined Ajax, Bayern Munich, Chelsea and Juventus in an elite band of teams to have won all three UEFA's major club trophies, namely European Champion Clubs' Cup/Champions League, UEFA Cup/Europa League, and European Cup Winners' Cup.