They succeeded, ensuring that their victory, in a largely forgettable match on the field, was one to remember.
“Yesterday morning, we were devastated,” said United midfielder Ander Herrera, dedicating the win to the victims. “But the manager told us the only thing we could do was to win this for them. That’s what we’ve done.
“It’s just a football game, just a trophy, but if we can support them with this just 1 percent, it’s enough for us.”
Paul Pogba scored off a deflected shot in the 18th minute — the French midfielder pointed to the sky during his celebrations — and Henrikh Mkhitaryan added a goal in the 48th by deftly hooking home a close-range effort from a corner.
In tough circumstances, United handled the occasion better than an Ajax team featuring six players who are 21 or younger and playing in the famous Dutch club’s first European final in 21 years.
“I haven’t seen the Ajax that I am used to,” Ajax Coach Peter Bosz said. “They are not used to play a final. It was all new for them.”
For United Coach Jose Mourinho, it was obvious that the victory was a huge weight off his shoulders, because of both the emotions of the last few days and the importance of the match. Mourinho was thrown up in the air by his coaching staff in the post-match celebrations, he rolled around on the ground with his son, and jumped up and down in frenzied fashion just before United captain Wayne Rooney lifted the trophy.
United’s season was always going to be defined by this game. In Mourinho’s first season at Old Trafford, he has guided the team to two trophies — the League Cup in February — and a place in next season’s Champions League, the bonus prize for winning the Europa League.
“Obviously there’s happiness from our achievement,” Mourinho said. “But if we could,…