Manchester United pulled together in their city’s time of darkness, showing no little skill and spirit to overcome Ajax and win the Europa League.
Less than 48 hours after a terror attack killed 22 people and injured many more at Manchester Arena, the club’s fans, players and staff stood unbowed in Stockholm.
Football seems trivial at a time of such pain but United embraced the spirit shown in spades by the city they represent, with Jose Mourinho’s men winning the Europa League as goals from Paul Pogba and Henrikh Mkhitaryan secured a 2-0 triumph against Ajax.
United’s first continental trophy in nine years brings with it the welcome boon of Champions League qualification after a disappointing Premier League campaign, but more crucially a cathartic, if temporary, release for some.
Nerves were settled at the Friends Arena when Pogba – playing in his second match since his father Fassou Antoine died aged 79 – opened the scoring with a low shot that deflected in off Davinson Sanchez.
United’s goal was just reward for a bright start that soon tapered off, only for Mourinho’s men to return impressively from the break as Mkhitaryan directed home acrobatically.
Perhaps unsurprisingly, Ajax’s callow side – the youngest ever in a major European final – were unable to find a way back as United added to this season’s EFL Cup and Community Shield triumphs.
Europa League glory means United join Ajax, Bayern Munich and Juventus as the only clubs to have won all three major UEFA trophies, including the now-defunct European Cup Winners’ Cup, as well as the Club World Cup or the Intercontinental Cup.
But after a tragic few days for their city, most important was their victorious show of defiance that all connected to the club can be proud of.