Man United get through

Fergusons men enter last 16 despite loss to Ajax

Manchester United scraped into the last 16 of the Europa League on Thursday, narrowly avoiding a humiliating elimination after being outplayed and losing 2-1 at home to Ajax Amsterdam.

Not even a sixth minute opener from Javier Hernandez could inspire United as Aras Ozbiliz levelled eight minutes before the break and Toby Aldeweireld’s late header set up a nerve-wracking finale.

United manager Alex Ferguson took the blame for fielding too many young defenders after his side slunk through 3-2 on aggregate in only the second meeting of two of Europe's most successful clubs.

They will face Atheltic Bilbao in the last 16 after the side led by eccentric former Argentina and Chile coach Marcelo Bielsa beat Lokomotiv Moscow 1-0, despite being reduced to 10-man, to qualify on away goals.

Atletico Madrid beat Lazio 1-0 to complete a 4-1 aggregate win and Valencia, Spain’s other representatives, beat Stoke City 1-0 to complete a 2-0 aggregate win.
Steaua Bucharest’s dream of reaching the final in their home city ended at Twente Enschede who were joined in the last sixteen by fellow Dutch side PSV Eindhoven.

Although Ajax have not won a European trophy since 1995, they still have a more impressive tally than United with four European Cup titles, one Cup Winners’ Cup and one UEFA Cup.

Missing Wayne Rooney due to a throat infection, United appeared to be cruising when Hernandez put them ahead after six minutes, cutting inside his marker to score with a clinical finish after being set up by Dimitr Berbatov.

Ajax’s possession was pleasing to witness but ineffective until the 37th minute when Aras Ozbiliz thumped home a first-time shot from 20 metres despite a suspected handball by Nicolas Lodeiro in the build up.

Ajax, the first Dutch team to win at Old Trafford, took control of the game and sounded a warning just before the hour when Siem de Jong’s header was brilliantly turned over the bar by David De Gea.

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