Manchester United stumbled into the last 16 of the Europa League after defeat to Ajax at Old Trafford.

Javier Hernandez’s early goal looked like opening the floodgates, but after a resurgence, Frank de Boer's stylish side equalised through Aras Ozbiliz before half-time.

United had David De Gea to thank for denying Siem de Jong after the interval, but Toby Alderweireld’s late header set up a nervy ending which saw Premier League champions scrape through, where they will face Athletic Bilbao in the next round.

With the luxury of a two-goal lead, Sir Alex Ferguson left out Rio Ferdinand, while Wayne Rooney was ill for the visit of Ajax, who made just one change from the first leg.

It took just six minutes for United to all but put the tie seemingly beyond the Dutch champions when Dimitar Berbatov’s threaded pass found Hernandez, who cut inside, before sweeping home past Kenneth Vermeer.

De Boer’s side immediately set about leveling the contest with Miralem Sulejmani shooting over when well placed.

Ozbiliz then forced David de Gea into his first meaningful save of the night with a toe-poked effort, before thumping past the Spaniard from 18 yards to give the visitors a lifeline.

Ajax were starting to dictate possession and only the reactions of De Gea denied them taking the lead on the night, as De Jong’s header was brilliantly turned over by the 2010 Europa League winner.

United attempted to wrestle away control by introducing Paul Scholes and Jonny Evans, and 10 minutes after their introduction they almost hit the front for the second time as Nani hammered the bar, after cutting inside.

The away side set up a thrilling finale with four minutes left through Alderweireld’s crashing header, but United held out to reach the last 16 by the skin of their teeth.

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