Manchester United v Ajax 20:05 Thurs
Soon after Sir Alex Ferguson came out defending the form of English clubs in the Champions League this season, Manchester United will attempt to capitalize on their first-leg lead over Ajax as heavy odds on favourites with Paddy Power as they look to finish the job against the Dutch outfit tonight.
The Red Devils beat de Godenzonen in the reverse fixture last week, earning a 2-0 lead over the youthful Ajax that they’ll bring back to Old Trafford this week.
It took an hour for the visitors to break the deadlock in last week’s encounter through an Ashley Young finish only for Javier Hernandez to increase the deficit with a penalty five minutes from full time, which put the Red Devils in a commanding position as they head into the second leg tonight.
Given last season’s impeccable home record, Manchester United should, on paper, be able to hold Ajax out on Thursday giving them access to the Europa League Round of 16.
Ales Ferguson will be missing Wayne Rooney, who is out with a throat infection, while Dimitar Berbatov and young starlet Paul Pogba will be pushing for a starting birth. Ryan Giggs will make his 900th appearance in a United shirt while Chris Smalling and Tom Cleverley should also start.
Some have labelled the competition an inferior tournament but numerous members of the United squad have stepped up to defend the Europa League and appear just as keen to add the title to their cabinet regardless of their Champions League exit.
It’s common knowledge that Ferguson is interested in the £16m signature of Christian Eriksen and the Scot will have another chance to look at the Dane tonight ahead of a protracted summer move.
With European distractions to concentrate on, Ajax’s domestic campaign has suffered slightly this campaign as the Eredivisie outfit sit at sixth in the Dutch top flight.
That won’t bother manager Frank de Boer however, in a match that his side will see as their Cup final when they attempt to overthrow an two away goal difference against mighty opposition, but they must make do without Nicolai Boilesen, Dmitri Bulykin, Theo Janssen, Gregory van der Wiel and Eyong Enoh, who will all miss the trip through injury.