Ashley Young celebrates his goal in the second half

Ajax   0

Man United   2

Young (59), Hernandez (85)

16 FEBRUARY 2012, Amsterdam ArenA Attendance: 48,866

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1Vermeer
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3Alderweireldyellow card
5Vertonghen
42Kopperssub15
10de Jongyellow card
28Aissati
8Eriksen
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19Bulykinsub34
7Sulejmani
Subs:
22Cillessen
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17Blind
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23/02/2012 21:55, Report by Nick Coppack in Amsterdam
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Ajax 0 United 2

Manchester United have one foot in the Europa League round of 16 after goals from Ashley Young and Javier Hernandez in Amsterdam gave the Reds a 2-0 first-leg lead against Ajax.

But while Sir Alex's men will be confident of completing the job at Old Trafford next Thursday, nothing should be taken for granted. After all, this was no walk in the park.

Indeed, the Reds encountered stiff opposition in Ajax, themselves a club steeped in history and, like United, more accustomed to life in the Champions League. So it was no surprise that on Thursday night the four-times kings of Europe put aside poor recent domestic form to stand toe-to-toe with Sir Alex's men for almost an hour.

It was only in the 59th minute that Ashley Young broke the deadlock with a low, crisp finish that set the Reds on the way to what was Sir Alex Ferguson's first ever UEFA Cup win with Manchester United. And while it's not the European trophy supporters usually yearn for, the message from inside the Reds camp in the build-up to the game was clear: "We're in it to win it."

Sir Alex certainly picked a side he hoped would be strong enough to finish off the tie in the first leg. The spine was particularly robust, with starts for David De Gea, Rio Ferdinand, Michael Carrick and Wayne Rooney. There was also a much-anticipated return for midfielder Tom Cleverley, playing his first football since 29 October when he limped off against Everton at Goodison Park with an ankle injury.

Phil Jones and Nani, both of whom had missed United's last four fixtures were additional welcome returns, while Fabio was preferred at left-back with Patrice Evra left behind in Manchester.

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