Europa League Final: Recapping Manchester United's Route to Play Ajax in Stockholm

Manchester United winger Henrikh Mkhitaryan, right.
Manchester United's Henrikh Mkhitaryan, right, at Old Trafford, Manchester, April 20. Mkhitaryan's five goals have been crucial to United's progress to the Europa League final. Jason Cairnduff/Reuters

A place in the Champions League next season, as well as European glory, is on the line on Wednesday night in Stockholm when Manchester United and Ajax meet in the Europa League final.

United's route to Friends Arena has rarely been straightforward, but it finds itself 90 minutes away from a second major trophy of the season.

Here's how Jose Mourinho's team progressed to the final.

Feyenoord 1-0 Manchester United, De Kuip, Rotterdam, September 15, 2016

United's European campaign began inauspiciously with a defeat in the Netherlands. Mourinho made eight changes from the team that had just lost the derby to Manchester City, but that did not shock his team into a response. Tonny Vilhena struck in the 79th minute to leave United bottom of Group A after one game.

Manchester United 1-0 Zorya Luhansk, Old Trafford, Manchester, September 29, 2016

Back on track, just about. United welcomed the team from eastern Ukraine to Old Trafford and climbed to third in the group but it was a struggle. They had to wait until the 69th minute for the breakthrough, as Zlatan Ibrahimovic nodded in Wayne Rooney's mis-hit shot.

Manchester United 4-1 Fenerbahce, Old Trafford, October 20, 2016

The Paul Pogba show. United hauled itself into contention to win Group A thanks to two goals from its world-record signing. Pogba struck a penalty on 31 minutes then produced a gorgeous, sweeping finish into the top corner in first-half injury time. Anthony Martial, with another penalty, and Jesse Lingard also scored goals in a comprehensive victory.

Fenerbahce 2-1 Manchester United, Sucru Saracoglu Stadium, November 3 2016

Trouble on the banks of the Bosphorus. Fenerbahce striker Moussa Sow took 65 seconds to score one of the goals of the season, a thunderous yet balletic overhead kick. Jeremain Lens added another in the second half with a free kick that left David De Gea unmoved. A fine Wayne Rooney strike late on was not enough as United slipped to third in Group A.

Manchester United 4-0 Feyenoord, Old Trafford, November 24 2016

Comprehensive revenge from the defeat at De Kuip. Wayne Rooney became United's all-time record European goalscorer as Jose Mourinho's men ran out easy winners in England's northwest to leave its fate in its hands in Group A.

Zorya Luhansk 0-2 Manchester United, Chornomorets Stadium, Odessa, December 8 2016

Needing a draw or victory to make sure of progression to the knockout stages, United produced a gritty performance on an icy pitch that had worried Mourinho in the days leading up to the game. Second-half goals from Henrikh Mkhitaryan and Zlatan Ibrahimovic meant United would be playing European football after Christmas, though as group runner-up behind Fenerbahce.

Manchester United 3-0 Saint-Etienne, Old Trafford, Round of 32, February 16 2017

The first half of the Pogba Derby—Paul against his older brother Florentin, who plays for Saint-Etienne—became a celebration of all things Zlatan Ibrahimovic. The Swedish striker made off with his first Manchester United hat trick, and in the process made the second leg in France a formality.

Saint-Etienne 0-1 Manchester United, Stade Geoffroy Guichard, Round of 32 Second Leg, February 22 2017

A formality it was on the scoresheet, as Henrikh Mkhitaryan struck in the 16th minute to kill the tie. But United took blows from its trip to southern France. Mkhitaryan went off injured, while Eric Bailly was sent off for two bookable offenses.

Rostov 1-1 Manchester United, Olymp-2 Stadium, Round of 16 First Leg, March 9 2017

Another important Mkhitaryan goal in Europe, as United escaped from Russia with a useful draw. There was a sense of deja-vu as Mourinho criticized the pitch before the game, though United failed to repeat its victory over Luhansk as Aleksandr Bukharov equalized eight minutes into the second half.

Manchester United 1-0 Rostov, Old Trafford, Round of 16 Second Leg, March 16 2017

United dominated possession and chances against its limited Russian opposition but relied eventually on one Juan Mata goal, and several saves from Sergio Romero, to progress to a quarterfinal against Anderlecht.

Anderlecht 1-1 Manchester United, Constant Vanden Stock Stadium, Quarterfinal First Leg, April 13 2017

Mkhitaryan scored on 36 minutes, but then missed another good chance. And the tie was left in the balance heading into the second leg at Old Trafford when Leander Dendoncker headed in with four minutes of normal time remaining.

Manchester United 2-1 Anderlecht, Old Trafford, Quarterfinal Second Leg, April 20

A night of frayed nerves was settled by Marcus Rashford's cool extra-time finish. United had led through a Mkhitaryan goal on ten minutes, but Sofiane Hanni equalized just after the half-hour to end the scoring in normal time. United peppered the Anderlecht goal with 22 shots before Rashford sent it through, though Ibrahimovic suffered a knee injury and was out for the rest of the season.

Celta Vigo 0-1 Manchester United, Balaidos, Semifinal First Leg, May 4

Rashford the savior. United's teenager stepped up to a free kick on 67 minutes and curled it past the reach of Celta keeper Sergio Alvarez to give his side a precious away goal heading into the second leg.

Manchester United 1-1 Celta Vigo, Old Trafford, Semifinal Second Leg, May 11

When Marouane Fellaini scored on 18 minutes, United should have had a comfortable night. But it sat back and allowed Celta into the game, until Facundo Roncaglia equalized on 85 minutes. That was the prelude to a final, mad act as Eric Bailly and Roncaglia were both sent off. John Guidetti missed two fine chances to send Celta through but United survived.