Manchester United beat Ajax in an emotional Europa League final on Wednesday, two days after a terror attack claimed 22 lives in Manchester.
Goals from Paul Pogba and Henrick Mkhitaryan were enough to overcome a young Eredivisie side as United, wearing black armbands to honour the victims of the Ariana Grande concert bombing, defeated the Dutch team by a 2-0 score.
Ahead of the game, which was played at the Friends Arena in Stockholm, Sweden, both teams linked arms at the centre circle while the 50,000 match-going fans observed a minute’s applause.
The opening ceremony was also changed to reflect the events.
After a tense start, Pogba settled his team’s nerves in the 17th minute when his low left-footed strike deflected off Dávinson Sanchez and beat Ajax goalkeeper André Onana to give United a 1-0 lead.
After half-time, Juan Mata curled a corner kick to Chris Smalling who nodded the ball into Mkhitaryan’s path on the six-yard line. Needing no second invitation to shoot, the Armenian instinctively hooked the ball at goal and doubled United’s advantage.
Two goals were enough to win United the Europa League title, with the biggest prize a route into the 2017-2018 Champions League competition.
Greater Manchester Police’s chief superintendent John O’Hare said it was right the game went ahead, while United’s executive vice-chairman Ed Woodward said the club’s thoughts were with the victims of the attack.
“Success tonight is nothing compared to the pain and suffering back home,” Woodward told MUTV. “It was very sombre flying [to Stockholm] over with the directors – it was all we were talking about.”
Prime Minister Theresa May raised the national terror alert level to “critical” on Wednesday in Britain. Suicide bomber Salman Abedi killed 22 and injured at least 64 when he detonated an improvised bomb in the foyer of Manchester Arena in central Manchester on Monday night, where the pop star Grande was performing.
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