Daley Blind has praised a specific tactic deployed by Jose Mourinho during Manchester United’s Europa League final win over Ajax in 2017.
The Dutch central defender was signed from Ajax for a fee of £14 million and won three trophies while at the club, becoming one of the most successful United players post-Sir Alex Ferguson.
In 2017, Jose Mourinho brought United their first European silverware since the 2008 Champions League title, beating Ajax 2-0 in the Europa League final – and Blind has described the “brilliant” tactic that Mourinho had employed in order to win the tie.
“He gave us this crazy, brilliant plan to shut them down and kill the game,” Blind told The Athletic.
Ajax played attractive football and pressed high. We had a midfield of (Paul) Pogba, (Marouane) Fellaini and (Henrikh) Mkhitaryan. We were physically stronger than Ajax, we also played directly with more long balls so Ajax couldn’t press us.
“It wasn’t that attractive but Mourinho took away Ajax’s strongest point. We got an early, slightly lucky, goal,” with the side going on to take the trophy in a 2-0 victory.
Blind, of course, was starting against his former club during the tie, and has explained how it felt to do so
“I’d supported Ajax in the competition as a fan, but then they were playing United. I felt like I couldn’t lose in front of my friends and former teammates, even as an Ajax fan.
“I was also a little jealous, in case Ajax won a European final and I wasn’t part of it. I was so focused for the game and (defending against Kasper) Dolberg, who was great that season. It was one advantage that I knew about the Ajax players, there would be no surprises for me.”
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