Ok, so Ajax didn’t win it. Too bad. But Ajax won anyway. Is my view. Man United have been poor all season, despite massive signings. They won this trophy, sure, but usually Man United would be competing to win the CL! Mourinho has shown the world more of his bad side (placing finger in Barca assistant’s coach eye, calling Chelsea doctor “a whore” and this season several attempts to win an Oscar for Overacting).
They have the trophy, but young Ajax got the sympathy. The boys from Amsterdam tried, the men from Manchester did everything to stop them.
An ugly finals, physical strength and long balls by Manchester United, keeping 6 men behind the ball. It was always going to be tough if the Mancunians would score first, and they got their lucky goal when Pogba was offered too much space and a ricochet caused Onana to be without a chance.
Ajax didn’t start the second half too well with a corner conceded and an unlucky bounce, delivering Mhkataryan a chance to do something more than foul Veltman.
Ajax never looked to score. Too much through the middle, not decisive enough in the passing, too many nervous stray balls and obviously allowing Sanchez the ball to build up… Mourinho did it smartly, and Ajax simply wasn’t good enough.
And boy, is Mourinho getting drunk the coming days, coz not delivering CL football to the Red Devils would have been a tremendous upset and humiliation.
And Mourinho must have revelled in the fact that he could get a win over his much hated Ajax! You all saw his comments in the press about the Sons of Gods? Jose Mourinho was extra motivated to get one over Ajax, partly due to a deep historic scar. This article below appeared before the Europa League finals. I wasn’t able to bring you it earlier… Still a good read.
Lets go back to the spring of 1996. Barcelona chair Nunez was going to fire Johan Cruyff, after eight successful years. He was negotiating with Bobby Robson in a hotel suite in secret. In the room next door, a 33 year old young Portuguese chap was waiting. Robson said: “I need him at my side!”. Nunez: “No way. I will not pay for a translator.”
But the worldwise Brit didn’t give in. He needed the young man. Robson worked in Portugal as coach at Sporting and Porto and used Mourinho as his translator. Eventually, Nunez conceded but would not pay more than 10,000 pts per month for the upstart. Which is 60 euros. Per month. Robson and Mourinho agreed. Vice-chair Gaspart, who would make this anecdote public years later, offered the Portuguese translator a free room in one of his hotels, because “he was dirt poor.”
But Mourinho was more than a translator. Rufete, former Barca player: “We didn’t understand Robson. He was able to motivate us and inspire us with his expression, with his gestures. But if he spoke for half an hour, Moutinho would summarize it all in 2 minutes in Spanish.”
Laurent Blanc, Barca player in that season. “After a month, it was clear that Robson couldn’t reach the group. They were used to Cruyff, Robson was so different. So Robson let Mourinho do the tactical talks. He spoke Spanish. That is where his career started. He was clearly intelligent and he was clear in his messages.”
The Portugues was popular amongst the players and he smartly made pacts with the media. He was young, good looking and had humour. He was offered a raise and he was offered an apartment in Sitges. Not much later, new Barca coach Louis van Gaal would be his neighbour. Mourinho would work with Van Gaal and was a well respected part of the Barca backroom staff for years. When he took on Porto and Chelsea as head coach, he was convinced he would be appointed Barca head coach after Frank Rijkaard departed the Camp Nou.
But Barca’s board was divided. The one half felt the hard hand of Mourinho was needed, the other half wanted to move more towards the Barca way of working. Mourinho was told: “We will confer with Johan Cruyff about your appointment”. Cruyff was close with then chair Joan Laporte and Cruyff suggested Barca appointed youth coach Pep Guardiola.
Mourinho would never forget that. And he would never forgive Barca nor Cruyff. So when Real Madrid was looking for a coach to stand up to Barcelona’s reign and Guardiola’s successes, they smartly appointed Mourinho. And never before were the Clasicos so unfriendly, full volcanic eruptions and hotheaded playees as in the years under Mourinho, who preached aggression and hostility. This even spilled over into the Spain National Team!
Mourinho by then already had his revenge on Barca and Guardiola, by exiting them in the Champions League with Inter Milan. After the 3-1 loss in Milan, Barca could not destroy the defensive wall Inter put up in the Camp Nou. Catenaccio was given another dimension by Mourinho. But by doing so, he proved that Cruyff was right and the Barca board actually made the correct choice. With Mourinho, Cruyff’s legacy would have been trampled and the frivolous DNA of Barca destroyed.
Winning, is all that counts for Jose. Beauty is for the museum. He told his players at Inter, Chelsea and Real Madrid that ball possession was for naive puritans. He can’t deal with idealists, like Guardiola and Wenger. And he probably couldn’t deal with Peter Bosz either, who is probably the most Cruyffian coaches Holland has at the moment (sorry Koeman and De Boer!). Even worse, he doesn’t even know who Peter Bosz is he said last week at a press conference.
But of course he does! And he knows the Ajax game too. He has always been obsessed with the opponent. He would make thorough analysis of the opponents for Robson and Van Gaal. It is his strength. To find the weaknesses of the opponent and to destabilise them. Humiliate them. Which he usually does with Arsene Wenger. Dominating Guardiola is too hard for Mourinho though. Pep leads the confrontations 8-4 with seven draws.
So now Peter Bosz is his dog to kick. A nobody, Mourinho suggests. And to be condescending is Mourinho’s weapon of choice. “This is the most important game in the history of Man United,” he said before the return game vs Celta de Vigo. “Because United never won the Europa League.”
Ajax wants to win, wants to attack, score goals and dazzle. Mourinho will send his team onto the pitch with one big message: to prove Cruyff wrong. To tell the world his vision is outdated, naive and utopian. United will most likely have less than 45% possession in the game, but Mourinho doesn’t care. He wants to win. Always. But especially against Ajax, Bosz and Cruyff….