Date: 12 May 2017 11:38
The Portuguese enjoyed a dominant record over his current club's Europa League final opponents during his time in charge of Real Madrid
Manchester United will be confident of winning the Europa League, if manager Jose Mourinho’s record against final opponents Ajax is anything to go by.
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Mourinho has won all six of his previous meetings against Ajax, which came in the Champions League during his time as Real Madrid coach.
After surviving a semi-final scare against Celta Vigo to book a date with Ajax in Stockholm on May 24, Mourinho was asked about his record against the Dutch giants.
He told MUTV: “It means nothing. A final is a final and I played Ajax with Real Madrid all the six matches. It will be difficult. They are a young team, strong team and they finish their league this weekend."
Here, Goal takes a look at what happened when Mourinho previously came up against Ajax.
Mourinho's first encounter with Ajax ended with a comfortable 2-0 win, with Real controlling the game from the off. With Cristiano Ronaldo struggling for form, Real went with a front four and the Portuguese had plenty of support as Ajax were pinned in their own half.
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The first goal came courtesy of a Vurnon Anita own goal, much to Mourinho’s lack of jubilation, it was 2-0 when man-of-the-match Gonzalo Higuain spared his earlier blushes by putting his side further ahead. Mourinho's first meeting with Ajax would prove to be a learning curve for future games against the Dutch side.
Karim Benzema, an Alvaro Arbeloa rocket from long range and a Ronaldo double saw a well-oiled Mourinho side cruise past Ajax at the Amsterdam Arena. Mourinho’s tactics appeared to be hitting Ajax on the counter and, with the pace of Ronaldo, they were able to do this effectively.
A result that confirmed Madrid as group winners didn’t come without its fair share of drama. Sergio Ramos and Xabi Alonso were both controversially sent off for time-wasting, amid accusations the pair deliberately picked up second yellow cards in order to serve a suspension in a meaningless final group game.
The Dutch champions were treated to a tactical lesson by Mourinho as Madrid, thanks to goals from Ronaldo, Benzema and Kaka, comfortably beat Ajax. High pressing, led by the forward quartet of Ronaldo, Mesut Ozil, Kaka and Benzema proved to be far too powerful for the young Dutch side.
A counter-attacking approach again proved to be useful as Madrid looked to capitalise on every attack. Mourinho had implemented what he had learned from his previous two encounters with Ajax, culminating in a commanding performance.
A repeat scoreline of the earlier encounter in the group phase and pretty much a repeat performance too from Mourinho’s side. Jose Callejon netted twice and Higuain also scored as Madrid ended any Ajax hopes of a last-16 place.
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Mourinho opted to drop a number of first-team regulars, including Ronaldo, Ozil and Alonso, but the result remained the same as the ‘Special One’ kept his winning streak over Ajax going. His Real side became only the fifth team to finish the group stage with a 100% record.
A scintillating display from Ronaldo proved to be far too much for Ajax to handle as a CR7 hat-trick and Benzema volley saw the visitors home. Mourinho took the game to Frank de Boer’s side from the start, probing time and time again as they went in search of putting the match to bed.
Multiple saves from Ajax keeper Kenneth Vermeer and the crossbar weren’t enough to stop Ronaldo, who was in fine form at the Amsterdam Arena. It seemed Mourinho’s sides were becoming quite the bogey team for Ajax.
The curse of Mourinho continued for Ajax as Madrid hit four past the Dutch side for the second game running as goals from Callejon (2), Ronaldo and Kaka made light work for the Spaniards. Again it was a tactical masterclass as the high-pressing, fast-passing game was far too good, seemingly for anyone.
The final meeting between a Mourinho side and Ajax prior to the upcoming Europa League final was a one-sided affair. Qualification for the last 16 was already secured but Mourinho was keen to continue the good form going into the knockout stages.