United make comfortable start to life in Europa League

Ajax 0 Manchester United 2

Ashley Young's first Manchester United goal since September set the Red Devils on their way to a comfortable win over over Ajax in Amsterdam tonight.

The last time Young found the net was a last-gasp face-saver against Basel at Old Trafford, in a match which Sir Alex Ferguson still looks back on as the draw that cost his team their place in the Champions League.

And, after a poor first-half, the visitors roused themselves after the break and Young's 58th-minute winner came at the end of their most threatening spell, the England man tucking home after Nani's cross had been deflected into his path.

Javier Hernandez added a second six minutes from time to secure a result that will allow Ferguson to take a pragmatic approach to next week's second leg, which, unlike tonight, will be followed four days later by a crucial Premier League game, against high flying Norwich at Carrow Road.

As Tom Cleverley was handed his European debut after playing just twice since the beginning of September and not at all for over three months, Nani and Phil Jones back after four match absences and Ashley Young only just returned from a pre-Christmas injury, it was perhaps no surprise United were so far off the pace.

Too many first touches and passes went astray. Crossing was a particularly bad area.

Nani sent one corner straight out for a goal kick, failed to pick out a team-mate with one obvious cross and then smashed a shot into the side-netting from an impossible angle as Wayne Rooney and Javier Hernandez screamed for a pass.

On the other flank, Young fared only marginally better and though Cleverley flickered, he could not sustain his impact for any length of time.

As usual then, Rooney was the visitors' main threat, although his 25-yard effort lacked the venom to beat Kenneth Vermeer with the best chance of that tepid opening period.

Ajax played the kind of free-flowing passing football for which Holland is renowned.

Christian Eriksen may be a Dane but it was easy to see why he chose Holland to learn his trade rather than expose himself to the physicality of the Premier League.

Eriksen prodded and probed and tested David de Gea with a couple of pot shots.

Siem de Jong came closest to breaking the deadlock though, also from long-range.

The wide-man's shot was on target though and De Gea needed to stretch to keep it out.

When United last appeared in a European game outside the Champions League, goalkeeper Peter Schmeichel was amongst the scorers.

De Gea never contemplated emulating the great Dane. His stock is starting to rise though and Ajax refused to reduce themselves to pumping their opponents' box with crosses in an effort to expose the Spain star's weakeness under a high ball.

That there was no injury-time reflected a general lack of first-half excitement.

There as a talking point in the final minute though when Miralem Sulejmani went down under Rio Ferdinand's challenge.

Ajax were convinced it was a penalty. Italian referee Gianluca Rocchi decided otherwise, leaving Ferdinand to hobble down the tunnel for his break.

Stand-in skipper for the night in place of an emotionally drained Patrice Evra, Ferdinand was able to return for a second-half United began with far more zip than they had shown previously.

Jan Vertonghen was at full stretch to prevent Young's cross reaching Jones at the far post and Vermeer and Vurnon Anita combined to snuff out an opening that seemed to be presenting itself to Hernandez.

United were definitely turning the screw though and it was no surprise they broke the deadlock just before the hour.

So frustrating so often, Nani for once managed to find a team-mate with a cross that flicked off an Ajax defender.

Young steadied himself after beating Anita, eventually drilling a low shot through a crowd of bodies.

It was the former Aston Villa man's fourth goal since his £18million summer move to United and was followed immediately by Cleverley's departure for Paul Scholes, in the absence of Ryan Giggs the only remaining member of that 1995 UEFA Cup team.

Antonio Valencia's introduction for Young provided the South American with enough time to begin a move that ended with Hernandez exchanging passes with Rooney before slotting home his third goal in as many games and ninth of the season.

Valencia was instantly replaced after taking a knock in the build-up, although it only appeared to be a precaution.

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Life and Style
techCould new invention save millions in healthcare bills?
Sport
David Moyes gets soaked
sport Moyes becomes latest manager to take part in the ALS challenge
Voices
A meteor streaks across the sky during the Perseid Meteor Shower at a wind farm near Bogdanci, south of Skopje, Macedonia, in the early hours of 13 August
voicesHagel and Dempsey were pure Hollywood. They only needed Tom Cruise, says Robert Fisk
News
peopleEnglishman managed quintessential Hollywood restaurant Chasen's
Life and Style
food + drinkHarrods launches gourmet food qualification for staff
Arts and Entertainment
Michael Flatley prepares to bid farewell to the West End stage
danceMichael Flatley hits West End for last time alongside Team GB World champion Alice Upcott
Life and Style
Horst P Horst mid-fashion shoot in New York, 1949
fashionFar-reaching retrospective to celebrate Horst P Horst's six decades of creativity
News
Members and supporters of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender (LGBT) community walk with a rainbow flag during a rally in July
i100
Life and Style
Black Ivory Coffee is made using beans plucked from elephants' waste after ingested by the animals
food + drinkFirm says it has created the "rarest" coffee in the world
Arts and Entertainment
Jamie T plays live in 2007 before going on hiatus from 2010
arts + entsSinger-songwriter will perform on the Festival Republic Stage
Life and Style
food + drinkThese simple recipes will have you refreshed within minutes
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

All this talk of an ‘apocalyptic’ threat is simply childish

Robert Fisk: All this talk of an ‘apocalyptic’ threat is simply childish

Chuck Hagel and Martin Dempsey were pure Hollywood. They only needed Tom Cruise
Mafia Dons: is the Camorra in control of the Granite City?

Mafia Dons: is the Camorra in control of the Granite City?

So claims an EU report which points to the Italian Mob’s alleged grip on everything from public works to property
Emmys look set to overhaul the Oscars as Hollywood’s prize draw

Emmys look set to overhaul the Oscars as Hollywood’s prize draw

Once the poor relation, the awards show now has the top stars and boasts the best drama
What happens to African migrants once they land in Italy during the summer?

What happens to migrants once they land in Italy?

Memphis Barker follows their trail through southern Europe
French connection: After 1,300 years, there’s a bridge to Mont Saint-Michel

French connection: After 1,300 years, there’s a bridge to Mont Saint-Michel

The ugly causeway is being dismantled, an elegant connection erected in its place. So everyone’s happy, right?
Frank Mugisha: Uganda's most outspoken gay rights activist on changing people's attitudes, coming out, and the threat of being attacked

Frank Mugisha: 'Coming out was a gradual process '

Uganda's most outspoken gay rights activist on changing people's attitudes, coming out, and the threat of being attacked
Radio 1 to hire 'YouTube-famous' vloggers to broadcast online

Radio 1’s new top ten

The ‘vloggers’ signed up to find twentysomething audience
David Abraham: Big ideas for the small screen

David Abraham: Big ideas for the small screen

A blistering attack on US influence on British television has lifted the savvy head of Channel 4 out of the shadows
Florence Knight's perfect picnic: Make the most of summer's last Bank Holiday weekend

Florence Knight's perfect picnic

Polpetto's head chef shares her favourite recipes from Iced Earl Grey tea to baked peaches, mascarpone & brown sugar meringues...
Horst P Horst: The fashion photography genius who inspired Madonna comes to the V&A

Horst P Horst comes to the V&A

The London's museum has delved into its archives to stage a far-reaching retrospective celebrating the photographer's six decades of creativity
Mark Hix recipes: Try our chef's summery soups for a real seasonal refresher

Mark Hix's summery soups

Soup isn’t just about comforting broths and steaming hot bowls...
Tim Sherwood column: 'It started as a three-horse race but turned into the Grand National'

Tim Sherwood column

I would have taken the Crystal Palace job if I’d been offered it soon after my interview... but the whole process dragged on so I had to pull out
Eden Hazard: Young, gifted... not yet perfect

Eden Hazard: Young, gifted... not yet perfect

Eden Hazard admits he is still below the level of Ronaldo and Messi but, after a breakthrough season, is ready to thrill Chelsea’s fans
Tim Howard: I’m an old dog. I don’t get too excited

Tim Howard: I’m an old dog. I don’t get too excited

The Everton and US goalkeeper was such a star at the World Cup that the President phoned to congratulate him... not that he knows what the fuss is all about
Match of the Day at 50: Show reminds us that even the most revered BBC institution may have a finite lifespan – thanks to the opposition

Tom Peck on Match of the Day at 50

The show reminds us that even the most revered BBC institution may have a finite lifespan – thanks to the opposition