Last Updated: 18/02/12 2:18pm
FULL TIME: Manchester United secure a comfortable win against Ajax at the Amsterdam ArenA after a classy second half showing. Ashley Young broke the deadlock just before the hour mark stepping inside Vurnon Anita before firing his low shot through the legs of Kenneth Vermeer. And the visitors made sure of victory with five minutes remaning as Javier Hernandez combined with Wayne Rooney before finishing off the move from close-range despite Vermeer's best efforts.
Despite losing here, the Ajax fans are still singing, but it's been a job well done by Manchester United in the Amsterdam ArenA.
Miralem Sulejmani is still doing his best to reduce the deficit in Amsterdam but his attempted chip is over the crossbar.
SUBSTITUTION: Substitute Antonio Valencia is substituted after falling awkwardly following his through ball and is replaced by Danny Welbeck.
Fantastic break by United as Antonio Valencia plays Hernandez into space with a sublime pass, cutting threw the Ajax backline, and he finds Rooney in all sorts of space but the striker decides to play the ball back to the Mexican international who slides the ball into the far corner, despite Kenneth Vermeer's best efforts.
Jonny Evans and Michael Carrick defend well before Jan Vertonghen looks to bring the ball forward with those long legs but Ferdinand hacks the ball away.
Sir Alex Ferguson is on the edge of his technical area and doesn't look too happy with the way United are closing out this game. Ajax pressure is building!
Substitute Antonio Valencia fails to control a long diagonal pass across the field. A little unusual for the winger not to kill that ball.
SUBSTITUTION: United change as goalscorer Ashley Young comes off the field for the in-form Antonio Valencia.
Nothing comes from the resulting free-kick and finally Christian Eriksen shows United defenders a clean pair of heels as he gets the ball onto his left foot and forces David De Gea into making a fine stop. That's more like it from the dangerous Dane!
Replays show Young rather threw himself under the challenge but the winger wins a free-kick this time under the challenge of Jan Vertonghen.
Andrew Tweets: "I predict United will bag another with Ashley Young adding a second. Great commentary tonight!"
BIG CALL! Referee Gianluca Rocchi waves play on as Ashley Young seemed to fall to the ground just as he looked to be clean through.
Ajax now win a free-kick about 35-yards from goal and this time Eriksen chips the ball into the mixer, but United defend well.
Christian Eriksen shows some slick skills before his deflected effort is just about collected by De Gea before is went over the byline for a corner.
And moments later Nani has a pop with his left-foot from the edge of the box and replays show that Vermeer actually touched his shot over the crossbar although nothing was given.
SUBSTITUTION: Nicolai Boilesen replaces full-back Dico Koppers for Ajax as they make their second change of the night.
That was Ashley Young's first goal since the 3-3 draw at home to Basle in the Champions League last September.
SUBSTITUTIONS: Paul Scholes replaces Tom Cleverley for United while Ricardo Van Rhijn comes on for Dmitri Bulykin for Ajax.
United are ahead! Nani does superbly down the right before his low cross falls to the feet of Young who steps inside Vurnon Anita before firing his low shot through the legs of Kenneth Vermeer. Neat finish!
Charlie emails me to say: "Seems Nani has started where he left off losing the ball in the final attacks. Mr Ferguson bring on Valencia!!"
United win another corner and Carrick's flick at the near post isn't anticipated by Rooney or Hernandez.
Jude Tweets: "Think united will just scrape this. Hope to see Pogba on and see what he can do." Yep, he's on the bench, but as things stand Jude, I doubt he'll be coming on.
Now United win a free-kick down the left and Young's cross is a dangerous one and the visitors win a corner but that comes to nothing.
Excellent start to the second half by United and just before that Ajax booking Rooney headed inches wide of the far post.
YELLOW CARD: And Siem de Jong is himself booked for a late challenge on Ashley Young following a poor throw out by Kenneth Vermeer.
PENALTY SHOUT FOR UNITED! Javier Hernandez turns superbly and falls under the challenge of Vurnon Anita but the referee has his hands behind his back and gives nothing.
Jordan writes: "Second half United will pile the pressure on and a nice 3-1 win. Two from Rooney and one from Hernandez - a header I think."
At the other end Dmitri Bulykin controls a long-ball very well but lashes his attempted effort hopelessly wide of goal.
Now Ashley Young leaves his amrker for dead from the short corner although his deep cross is hacked clear.
GOOD SAVE! Rooney and Hernandez combine before Nani's cross shot is parried over the crossbar by Vermeer.
There are no changes for Manchester United despite the injury to Rio Ferdinand as he went off at the break. Ajax get the second half underway as the home supporters sing Bob Marley's '3 Little Birds' - Everything's gonna be alright...I'm sure it is!!
And, if you'd like to air your views during the second half, email Raz...that's me! at email@example.com or Tweet me @RazMirza and I'll publish a many as I can.
Ajax are now 7/2 to claim victory with SKY BET, who make Manchester United 5/4 and the draw 5/4. My pre-match prediction of 0-2, which was 8/1, is now down to 7/1. Head now to www.skybet.com to place your bets.
HALF TIME: No goals at the break in what has been a rather disappointing first-leg tie at the Amsterdam ArenA. Miralem Sulejmani has looked lively for the hosts while Siem de Jong's shot was parried around the post in probably the best chance of the half. United have rarely threatened although Javier Hernandez is looking sharpe.
PENALTY CLAIM! A fortuitous bounce allows Ajax to break and Miralem Sulejmani goes down under the challenge of Rio Ferdinand just inside the area, but Italian referee Gianluca Rocchi waves away strong appeals.
Ismail Aissati is brought down and now Dmitri Bulykin looks to find Siem de Jong in the area but Ferdinand is calm.
I've been impressed by the Ajax full-back Dico Koppers this evening. He's handled Nani well so far as the hosts get back on the ball.
Not for long though as Jan Vertonghen heads away but Fabio is back on the ball and his inswinging cross is flicked well wide by Nani.
Michael Carrick makes a strong challenge in the middle of the park but referee Gianluca Rocchi allows play to go on despite calls for a free-kick by the home fans.
Javier Hernandez is working hard down the right but is crowded out and Ajax win the throw much to the delight of the home crowd.
Ishaq thinks United will win despite their poor start tonight: "I think Man Utd will win 2-0 with Rooney and Nani to score."
Ashley Young gives the ball away before winning it back from Ismail Aissati and sets up Tom Cleverley, but the midfielder's attempted effort flies well over the crossbar.
The pressure is mounting on Manchester United as Ajax deliver two fantastic crosses which the visitors defend well. The second cross is headed towards goal by Siem de Jong, but it's tame and it will be a goal-kick but the warning signs are there!
CLOSE FOR AJAX! Siem de Jong picks up the ball around 30-yards out and lashes a stinging effort towards goal and David De Gea palms the ball wide of the far post.
Michael Carrick finds Wayne Rooney and he plays a ball through for Javier Hernandez, who is onside, but there is Vermeer off his line in a flash.
Phil Jones makes a surging run from the back for United and he looks for the run of Rooney but Ajax defenders are back in force and hack the ball clear.
String of chances for Ajax as Miralem Sulejmani's cross is headed towards goal by Dmitri Bulykin and then United block an attempted shot by Aras Ozbiliz.
Matt must be a Man City fan: "5-0 Ajax with De Gea blundering horribly, yet again, on many occasions." Oh well!
The build-up play by both teams has been surprisingly slow. You would expect United to force a faster tempo and push higher up the field to squeeze the play, but no, they're happy to sit back at the moment.
That is until United go for the kill as Javier Hernandez gets away from defenders but Kenneth Vermeer is quickly off his line to jump on the ball ahead of the Mexican star.
Charlie's being a little negative with his comments: "To be honest with you I have only one eye on the game tonight it is such a comedown from the Champions League that my interest is minimal. In some ways I hope that United don't stay in the Europa League longer than they have to so they can win the Premier League."
At the other end Wayne Rooney tests Kenneth Vermeer with a long-range effort but it's comfortable for the keeper.
And Dico Koppers picks up a loose pass and strides forward being chased down by Nani but still manages to his left-foot shot away, but it's weak and David De Gea has everything behind the ball.
At the other end Rooney delivers from the right and with three men in the middle he fails to find any of them.
Christian Eriksen wins a corner after Rio Ferdinand blocks his attempted lob. Nani heads away from the corner.
Aras Ozbiliz shows quick feet down the right but fires his attempted cross straight at David De Gea.
Well, the way things have started Ryan, Ajax seem happy to sit back and soak up the early pressure as Christian Eriksen seeks to find the run of Miralem Sulejmani, but Jonny Evans defends well.
Ryan emails me to say: "I'll be disappointed if united don't get a 3 or 4 nil convincing win tonight looking at the team they have out. Good to see Cleverley back in the lineup and looking forward to seeing Valencia coming off the bench late on to run riot."
Vurnon Anita made the block on that occasion and the resuting corner is headed out to Michael Carrick who fails to gain control of the high ball on the edge of the box.
Michael Carrick looks for the run of Javier Hernandez with a long ball and now Ashley Young gets on the ball and tries a few tricks before winning a corner.
However, Nani is back on the ball but this time shows too much of the ball to the young full-back Koppers.
Nani wins United an early corner after his attempted cross comes off Dico Koppers but the resulting corner is a poor one and is straight out for a goal-kick.
The hosts are keeping possession of the ball well as Aras Ozbiliz swings over a right-wing cross for Dmitri Bulykin but United clear their lines.
The visitors win a throw in Ajax territory and Nani is caught dwelling on the ball by Christian Eriksen.
United have set up in a more traditional 4-4-2 formation while the Dutch have set-up in a 4-2-3-1 formation, so they can be as defensive or attacking as they want depending how they start this evening.
United are wearing their blue and black striped shirts and socks with black shorts while Ajax are in their famous red and white kit.
The Champions of England take on the Champions of Holland then as Thursday night football begins for Manchester United in Amsterdam as the Red Devils kick-off.
Horace is expecting a thumping win for Ajax: "I think Ajax will wipe the floor with Manyou tonight. 5-1 to the Dutchmen."
Charlie reckons United will lose tonight: "I think Man Utd will struggle tonight in Ajax, their midfield looks weak and I also think because it is in Holland that Ajax will have the edge, so I'm going for Ajax to win 3-2. I do expect it to be close, but I'm sure Ajax will get the result. Miralem Sulejmani to open the scoring." Yes, the Serb is a talented player Charlie and I expect him to give that United backline a few problems this evening.
Nigel from Ireland emails me to say: "Looks a good team put out by Fergie. Delighted to see Cleverly back. 2-0 utd I think. I hope Eriksson has a good game for Ajax and Fergie buys him as he the type of player United need." Well, the Dane is a very special talent Nigel. We'll see how well he does tonight.
Meanwhile, Tom Tweets: "Rooney in good form and is scoring in vital games at the moment, everyone else chipping in a well which should see them through!"
Michael Tweets: "United team looks strong on paper, Evans and De gea could cost us the match if not on form! And how fit are Nani, Clevs and Jones?" Interesting thought Michael.
The atmposhere is simply amazing with the Ajax flags flying high and the music pumping out into this ArenA. Let's hope for a special game between these two special teams in European football.
Let's have a quick look at the betting. Ajax are 10/3 to claim victory with SKY BET, who make Manchester United 5/6 and the draw 5/2. Ajax's Miralem Sulejmani is favourite to bag the first goal for the hosts at 8/1 while Dmitri Bulykin and Siem De Jong are both 9/1. Theo Janssen is a good outside bet at 12/1 while Christian Eriksen is priced at 16/1. Meanwhile, United's talisman Wayne Rooney is 7/2 and Javier Hernandez is 9/2 for the visitors. Ashley Young is 16/1 to bag a brace. Michael Carrick is a 20/1 shot to score first. I'm going for a pre-match prediction of 0-2, which is 8/1. Head now to www.skybet.com to place your bets.
What do you United fans...do you agree with Wazza's words? And what do you think about tonight's scoreline. Will you run riot in Amsterdam against an Ajax team who are 6th in the Eredivisie and recorded their first competitive victory of 2012 on Saturday, as they saw off NAC Breda. Email Raz...that's me! at firstname.lastname@example.org or Tweet me @RazMirza and I'll publish a many as I can.
Meanwhile, Wayne Rooney - with 21 goals to his name this season believes Manchester United are peaking once more. The striker said: "I think I am hitting peak form again. I am really enjoying my football, scoring goals and the team are playing well. We've had a lot of difficult games in the last few weeks and some of the performances have been first class. We are in a good position and have hit good form. If we are there or thereabouts towards the end of the season we can give it a big push to get us over the finishing line."
As for United, well instead of coasting through the group stages of the Champions League as usual, they ended up in a do-or-die confrontation with Basel in December which they were unable to conquer. So, for the first time since 1995, tonight they will take part in a European competition other than the Champions League when they make their Europa League bow.
Four-time European Cup winners Ajax are one of only three clubs - Juventus and Bayern Munich are the others - to win the trio of major UEFA club competitions. However, it is 17 years since their last European triumph. A number of Ajax players are being coveted by Europe's major clubs including Denmark playmaker Christian Eriksen. And head coach Frank de Boer said: "Christian is a smart kid. Of course maybe he will play for a big team like Manchester United in the future. But I think he wants to show what he is capable of in this kind of team. It would be better for him to stay until he was 25 because you learn a lot in the Netherlands. If you leave afterwards you are a more stable player and ready to play in the big leagues."
So, Tom Cleverley is handed his European debut by Sir Alex Ferguson in Amsterdam. The midfielder has not played since injuring an ankle at Everton in October. Phil Jones and Nani are also recalled after missing the last four matches through injury to face an Ajax team who only missed out on a Champions League knockout phase berth after Lyon hammered Dinamo Zagreb 7-1 in their final group match.
AJAX: Vermeer, Anita, Alderweireld, Vertonghen, Koppers, De Jong, Aissati, Eriksen, Ozbiliz, Bulykin, Sulejmani. SUBS: Cillessen, Boilesen, Blind, Lodeiro, Serero, Van Rhijn, Lukoki.
MANCHESTER UNITED: De Gea, Jones, Ferdinand, Evans, Fabio Da Silva, Nani, Carrick, Cleverley, Young, Rooney, Hernandez. SUBS: Amos, Smalling, Park, Welbeck, Scholes, Valencia, Pogba.
If you'd like to air your views before or during the match, email Raz...that's me! at email@example.com or Tweet me @RazMirza and I'll publish a many as I can.