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Manchester United v Ajax Preview: Will United Wrap Up Europa Tie?

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After winning 2-0 in Amsterdam last week, Manchester United have one foot into the Europa League round of 16. However European competition is never straight forward and United can ill-afford to write off the Dutch giants who will be eager to prove themselves on the big occasion.

For the best part of an hour in Amsterdam, there was very little between the sides and it was only really when Ashley Young scored that United grabbed the game by the horns and made their big-match experience count against a youthful team.

Coming of the back of a convincing win at home to NEC Breda, Frank De Boer’s side have to go to Old Trafford confident of pulling of an upset and play positively and at the very least make a harder game than critics think it will be.

It will be another chance to see starlets Christian Eriksen and Ajax’s captain Jan Vertonghen in the flesh for United fans, who can run their own eyes on the players who have both been linked with big-money moves to the Premier League.

Kenneth Vermeer might not be well-known to English fans but the Dutch keeper excelled last week with saves from Nani and Javier Hernandez (twice) standing out. He will have to be at his best again if Ajax are to have any chance tonight.

Rio Ferdinand v Dmitri Bulykin

Russian forward Bulykin it’s fair to say up until last season was thought of solely as a journey-man striker. However 22 goals last season on loan at Eredivise strugglers Ado Den Haag from Belgian giants Anderlecht earned him a big-money move to Ajax.

Whilst he is by no means a clinical finisher, Bulykin’s work-rate is good and he is good at bringing others into play. Ferdinand will have to be wary of him but should have the know-how to deal with the Russian who isn’t the quickest.

Paul Scholes v Christian Eriksen

In a weird way this evening, United’s fans will be hoping to see Ajax’s highly-talented midfielder Eriksen sparkle. After all, the little Dane has been heavily with a move to Old Trafford so it’s only natural fans would want to see him at his best.

Eriksen has been compared to Scholes for his creativity and it shall be interesting to see how United target him. He won’t be scared of getting challenged and is nifty with his feet. Scholes will have to draw on all his experience this evening.

Dimitar Berbatov v Jan Vertonghen

With Wayne Rooney absent tonight due to a throat infection, Berbatov is likely to start alongside Hernandez up front for United. It’s a big chance for the Bulgarian to stake his claim for a regular starting place leading into the title run-in.

Ajax’s rugged captain Vertonghen will have the duty of trying to stop him tonight. The Belgian is a fine defender and despite not being in the best of form should be able to deal with Berbatov’s languid style and lack of pace.

In terms of a prediction for the game, as stated earlier on in a on in a predictions article, I can see United winning this tie comfortably, setting up a likely tie against Spanish side Athletic Bilbao in the Europa League round of 16.

However it wouldn’t surprise me if Ajax were to trouble United on the night. Big performances from their key players will put them in the shop-window for big-money moves and will solidify De Boer as one of the top young managers in European football.

By Adam Dennehey @ADennehey87