Man United take on Ajax in a round of 32 tie in the Europa League, on Thursday, February 16, 2012. This is an encounter between two sides that failed to make it past the group stage of the Champions League.
Having been finalists in last year’s league, United’s fall was all the more disgraceful after they failed to qualify from their group, as did Ajax who finished third in theirs, behind Real Madrid and Lyon. The Old Trafford side are likely to go all out for redemption against the Dutchmen who can expect their defence to be tested against the rampaging United attack.
United and Ajax have won seven European titles between them and yet have met just once before, in 1977, when United beat the Dutch giants on aggregate, 2-1.
Ajax’s performance in recent times has been hit by off-field management wrangles and their recent win against Breda was only their first of the year, coming as it did after four winless games on the trot. Their mediocre showing has resulted in Ajax being shunted to second place in the Dutch Eredivise, eight points adrift of table leaders AZ Alkmaar.
Christian Eriksen is likely to be the key player in the match with Man United, and the nineteen year-old Danish midfielder could in the near future be signed by Sir Alex Ferguson. Other outstanding youngsters in the Dutch side include Jan Vertonghen and Siem de Jong. Andre Ooijer, Theo Janssen and Gregory van der Viel are among the senior players on the injury list and likely to miss the game on Thursday. Dick Koppers and Toby Alderweireld could be the beneficiaroies of their absence with the latter likely to join Vertonghen in the back-line.
While Giggs, Evra and Berbatov are not in the United squad, Nani, Smalling and Jones are likely to travel, having recovered from injury; Fabio could replace Evra in the back-line.
United’s recent form has been ominous with Rooney coming into his element with a brace of goals, two weeks running, against Liverpool and Chelsea. With no Carling Cup or FA Cup to distract them , Sir Alex’s side are likely to give the Europa league their all, and they could try and wrest the advantage off in the away encounter.
Ajax’s probable eleven: Vermeer, Koppers, Vertonghen, Alderweireld, Anita, Eriksen, Enoh, De Jong, Sulejmani, Lodeiro, Ozbiliz.
Man United’s probable eleven: De Gea, Rafael, Evans, Ferdinand, Fabio, Valencia, Cleverly, Scholes, Park, Rooney, Hernandez.
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An avid writer, on an eclectic range of subjects, he brings to bear editorial experience garnered with a national newspaper in South-East Asia. He also has sportscasting experience, as a cricket commentator, and his passion for sport extends beyond Cricket, to Football, Tennis, and Olympic Sports.