This second league EUROPA LEAGUE contest should have been NO CONTEST, with The Red Devils 2-0 up in the away leg at The Amsterdam Arena a week ago.
In fact it looked that way as Javier Hernandez CHICHARITA, made it 3-0 on aggregate after only 6 minutes into this home leg in front of a packed house. A massive Ajax supporters presence that packed the Upper Tier of the East Stand sang, stomped, chanted and cheered their heroes throughout. They were rewarded with a win and two goals even though they went out in style 3-2 on aggregate, and United are into the last 16 and one more step on the road to Bucharest and this season's final in May.
No longer are their players well known legends but a shadow of the football machine that were Champions of Europe three years in a row in the 1970's. They still have their famous Academy but don't have the funds to keep their rising stars, who are lured by the riches on offer in England, Spain, Italy and Germany.
Off the field there is nasty turmoil in the boardroom with Johann Cruyff forcing the whole board to resign in protest at the demands of their most famous legend. You will never again see an Ajax player wearing No 14, Cruyff's number, which has now been 'retired'. You may know that Holland, with a red, white and blue flag play in orange after The House of Orange. A couple of years ago on my last visit to Amsterdam Arena I was in the Press lounge prior to an Eredivisie match and was served orange juice, BUT it was BLOOD ORANGE juice, red for Ajax-unique.
If you look carefully at their club badge of Ajax the Great, a Greek hero of the Trojan Wars you will notice that the logo is made up of ELEVEN LINES, to represent 11 players on a football team. When Ajax were first promoted to the Dutch First Division in 1911 their red jerseys clashed with those of Sparta Rotterdam, and away kits did not yet exist. So they devised their unique jersey, white with a bold red panel so that it would not clash with any opponent. Last night however, they played in yellow.
" I have to accept responsibility for the loss" said Sir Alex Ferguson. "Playing so many young players in the back four was a big ask". Rafael and Fabio, Phil Jones and Chris Smalling-average age 21. " We eventually survived with a bit of luck but we didn't play well in the second half."
Spanish goalkeeper David de Gea who has come in for quite a lot of criticism had one awesome, incredible save from a second half corner kick which proved to be very important given the final score. Tom Cleverley found it difficult with the pace after a long 4 month lay off and got another injury which will keep him out of next weeks friendly international for England v Holland at Wembley, while Dimitar Berbatov was not an adequate replacement for a sick Wayne Rooney.
Sunday brings a domestic match at Carrow Road, Norwich, at which time Wayne should be ready for a tilt at defending the Premiership title. The Canaries also play in yellow of course.