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Jose Mourinho has explained the tactics Man Utd used vs Ajax in the Europa League final

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Jose Mourinho can look back now and say his first season at Manchester United was a success but there were certainly a few occasions where it didn't look like that would be the case.

Despite winning the League Cup back in February, the Red Devils struggled for consistency in the Premier League and gradually dropped out of top four contention.

It meant that ultimately, Man United's campaign boiled down to one game - the Europa League final.

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United's Portuguese boss knew serious questions would have been asked had he not been able to qualify for next season's Champions League given the amount of money spent 12 months ago.

But winning one-off games is Mourinho's speciality.

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It proved to be a typical 'Mourinho final' too as his side comfortably negotiated their way past Ajax in Stockholm with a very disciplined and controlled performance.

Goals from Paul Pogba and Henrikh Mkhitaryan in each half ensured Man United will be joining the likes of Barcelona, Real Madrid and Bayern Munich in the UCL from September.

It is common knowledge the former Chelsea and Real Madrid head coach leaves no stone unturned in the build-up to such matches but very rarely do we learn about the specific instructions and tactics behind Mourinho's triumphs.

Ajax v Manchester United - UEFA Europa League Final

However, this time the 54-year-old has revealed exactly how he was able to make a talented young Ajax team appear so toothless.

Mourinho told Tribuna Expresso how they targetted centre-back Davinson Sanchez as a potential weakness on the ball and were keen to make their physical advantage in midfield count.

"I watched 8 Ajax matches. In England I tend to watch 2-3 matches because I already know the opponent, but not in Europe. To me analysing the opponent is key because the way I practice and play is influenced by it." Mourinho said - scroll down to see the full translation of his explanation.

"We wanted to create instability. We would let them play out from the back while blocking De Light, their right centre-back, making them play through Davinson Sanchez who had more trouble.

Ajax v Manchester United - UEFA Europa League Final

"We'd make our full-back close down well that central space and if the ball entered a wide area for their winger, the full-back would close him down and Herrera would be the one covering that space in midfield. But what matters is that my players cannot have doubts there - defensive creativity only in emergency situations.

"Everyone said Ajax played beautiful football and that the beauty of the game matters and bla, bla, bla. I told my players that, for me, beautiful is not giving our opponents what they want. I even joked with Smalling - 'With your feet, we're for sure not playing out from the back!'"

And you've got to admit, Mourinho's tactics were spot on.

United's Dutch opponents may have had 69% possession, however, they produced just three shots on target and looked short of ideas in the final third.

Jose Mourinho has been regarded one of the best around at winning big matches for some time now and after learning just the amount of detail he puts into analysing his opponents, it isn't hard to see why he has been so successful in major European finals.

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Topics:
Europa League
Ajax
Football
Paul Pogba

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