Europa League final 2017

Ajax 0 Man United 2: Three talking points from Stockholm as Pogba pays his dues

Paul Pogba helped to fire Manchester United to Europa League glory with a comfortable win over a young Ajax side. Here's what we learned...

jose mourinho
Jose Mourinho secured Champions League qualification in his first season at Manchester United Photo: The Sport Review

Pogba’s £50m goal?

With one sweep of his right foot, did Paul Pogba repay more than half of his £89m transfer fee in Stockholm on Wednesday night? It certainly wasn’t pretty, but his deflected goal in the 18th minute was just what Manchester United needed to settle their cup final nerves. Yes, Henrikh Mkhitaryan added a second to put the result beyond doubt but neither team had really threatened before the Frenchman was found in acres of space by Marouane Fellaini on the edge of the box.

So much has been made of Pogba’s world-record transfer fee since his move back to Old Trafford from Juventus last summer that you feel it has weighed him down this season, no matter what he may say in front of the cameras. Well, you could argue that with his goal, albeit fortuitous, Pogba has come as close as he possibly can to repaying the bulk of his hefty transfer fee. It was claimed before the game that missing out on Champions League qualification next season could have cost the Red Devils as much as £50m in missed revenue. The fact that Pogba leads the way in terms of both passes attempted and completed in the Europa League this season shows that he hasn’t had as disappointing a campaign as some would have you believe. He did his work well in both boxes in Stockholm. That being said, Manchester United fans will be expecting to see more from him next term.

Vital victory

The build-up to the game from a Manchester United (and football) perspective mainly focused on two things: the fact that the Red Devils have never won this particular trophy and the unthinkable scenario in which not winning it would cause them to miss out on a Champions League spot for a second successive season.

Jose Mourinho, like he has done so many times before at other clubs, has tactfully managed to forge a siege mentality during his first season at Old Trafford. The media, the fixture list, the curse of injuries… they’re all out to get Manchester United if you believe the Special One. However, for all of his dramatic displays in front of the cameras, the Portuguese coach would have privately admitted that a sixth-place finish in the Premier League and failure to secure Champions League qualification would not have been good enough from his first season in charge at Manchester United. As it ended up, two trophies out of four and a spot in next season’s Champions League doesn’t look too bad at all.

Football takes a back seat

Despite the magnitude of the occasion in footballing terms, there was certainly an undertone of sadness in Stockholm on Wednesday night in the wake of the suicide bombing at the Manchester Arena less than 48 hours ago. With the tragic event occurring so close to home for the Manchester United team, it was bound to have an effect on Mourinho’s squad.

The Red Devils cancelled most of their media activities in the build-up to the game as they focused on letting their football do the talking in Sweden. Before the game, the stadium fell eerily quiet just before a moment of reflection as a mark of respect to the victims and their families and the Red Devils squad wore black armbands. The ‘silence’ ended up as applause but the stadium stood together as one for those few moments as the significance of a football match faded.

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