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Will Ajax re-kindle the European fire?

by Sam Peoples

The Amsterdam Arena will host the first leg on 16 February

After United crashed out of the Champions League group stages following a limp campaign, I didn’t think that Europa League would be able to provide me with any football to look forward to but cometh the draw and cometh ex-European champions Ajax. As far as a glamorous draw goes in the Europa League, I think this was the best possible team that we could of pulled out of the hat, for a variety of reasons.

A youthful Edgar Davids looks on in Ajax's 1995 Champions League celebrations

First and foremost, this tie is steeped in history. Ajax have won the European cup four times, most recently in 1995 against Milan, and have always been held in great esteem amongst the European elites as one of the driving forces behind the rise of European football. With names such as Marco van Basten, Johan Cruyff and Edwin Van Der Sar (of course he had to mentioned) having roots in Ajax, it is not hard to admire what a great club Ajax is. In recent years, they have fallen at the wayside of the top levels but the glory of the club still exists and it is a draw that has sparked my interest back into European football this season.

SAF likes bringing the youth through and 19 year old Eriksen has a fantastic career ahead of him

Secondly, a certain Christian Eriksen. The 19 year old Danish sensation is widely regarded as one of the hottest young prospects in European football and rightly so, for he already possesses poise and ability far beyond his years. A ball-playing, agile and creative midfielder? Sounds like a player that United are crying out for. SAF may well be stubborn and stretch his squad out to the limits this season but if Eriksen impresses over the two legs against United, then SAF will surely be very interested in getting his signature. With United’s midfield looking the bleakest it has in years due to long term injuries keeping out key players, the canvas is blank for Eriksen to stamp his claim against United. I would love to see such a hot talent being persuaded to come over to United and ply his trade on our shores which may simply be wishful thinking but I am definitely looking forward to watching his performances over the two legs.

Thirdly, and most importantly (I’d say) is that SAF has never won the Europa League, so why not add another trophy to his already bulging cabinet? He still has the same hunger and desire that he had when he came in 1986 and it still transpires onto the players in a contagious manner. Will SAF see the Europa League more like the Carling Cup than the European Cup? It is a possibility indeed. He may choose to use the competition as an experience platform for players such as Fryers, Pogba and Morrison to gain some vital European minutes under their belt but from my point of view, I would like to see SAF try his utmost in the competition and bring the cup back to Manchester. What harm can winning a European Cup do? None whatsoever I’d say, so the fact that it is the Europa League instead of the Champions League is irrelevant at this stage and we should fully concentrate on nothing else but winning.

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