Ashley Young and Javier Hernandez scored second-half goals as Manchester United dispatched Ajax to take control of their Europa League last-32 tie.

United struggled to get going in the first half and David de Gea produced a brilliant save to deny Siem de Jong.

But the visitors looked far stronger after the break and Young put them ahead with a drilled finish.

Hernandez doubled the lead late on to ensure United take two away goals into the second leg at Old Trafford.

That match takes place on 23 February and Sir Alex Ferguson's men will be confident of booking a last-16 meeting with Lokomotiv Moscow or Athletic Bilbao.

Ferguson insists his side are over their Champions League group-stage exit and their professional display in the Amsterdam Arena just about suggested as much.

United were nowhere near their best in a cagey opening 45 minutes, but after Young broke the deadlock the result never looked in doubt.

It was the first time they were competing in Europe's second-tier competition since 1995 and that perhaps went some way to explaining their cautious start.

A team containing six changes from Saturday's win against Liverpool sat deep in their 4-4-2 formation, allowing Ajax to establish a tidy rhythm.

The four-time European champions might not be the force they once were but a philosophy of nurturing young talents to play slick, flowing and intelligent football continues to run through their side.

Left-back Dico Koppers personifies their style and it was the Dutchman who created the first opening, intercepting a poor Jonny Evans pass before racing clear but shooting tamely at De Gea.

United's attacks lacked urgency and structure, while at the other end Miralem Sulejmani was troubling them with crosses from the left.

One such ball on 27 minutes could only be cleared to Aras Ozbiliz, whose goal-bound volley was blocked by Fabio da Silva.

DID YOU KNOW?

  • Ashley Young has not ended on the losing side in any of the last 20 competitive games that he has scored in

Nani wasted a fine chance to open the scoring when he blazed over from an angle with Wayne Rooney unmarked to his left, but Ajax were soon back on the front foot.

De Jong sent a 30-yard strike towards the top corner, only for De Gea to turn it round the post with a stunning save, and the same man headed over from another inviting Sulejmani pass.

On the stroke of half-time Ajax wanted a penalty when Rio Ferdinand clattered Sulejmani. It was not clear if the challenge was inside the area, but referee Gianluca Rocchi did not even give a free-kick.

Whether that served as a wake-up call or Ferguson delivered a rousing dressing-room speech, United started the second period in pulsating fashion.

Nani's shot was tipped over, Hernandez saw a penalty appeal rejected and Kenneth Vermeer saved well from a deflected cross.

United were now encamped around the Ajax box and it came as little surprise when they took the lead.

Nani's centre found its way to Young and the England international stepped inside Vurnon Anita before firing low past Vermeer.

Ajax almost produced an immediate response when Da Silva lost possession and Ozbiliz shot just over, a lapse in concentration that prompted Ferguson to berate his Brazilian defender.

However, United swiftly regained control and wrapped up the first leg when Hernandez exchanged passes with Rooney before finding the net via Vermeer.

Christian Eriksen showed throughout why many of Europe's biggest clubs are reportedly chasing him, while Ismail Aissati drew a diving save from De Gea at the death, but United were worthy winners.

Lineup, Bookings (3) & Substitutions (6)

Ajax

  • 01 Vermeer
  • 03 Alderweireld Booked
  • 04 Vertonghen
  • 05 Anita
  • 42 Koppers (Boilesen - 63' )
  • 08 Eriksen
  • 10 De Jong Booked
  • 28 Aissati
  • 07 Sulejmani
  • 19 Bulykin (Van Rhijn - 60' )
  • 23 Ozbiliz (Lukoki - 80' )

Substitutes

  • 22 Cillessen
  • 15 Boilesen
  • 17 Blind
  • 34 Van Rhijn
  • 18 Lodeiro
  • 25 Thulani Serero
  • 37 Lukoki

Manchester United

  • 01 De Gea
  • 04 Jones
  • 05 Ferdinand
  • 06 Evans
  • 20 Fabio Booked
  • 16 Carrick
  • 17 Nani
  • 18 Young (Valencia - 76' )
  • 23 Cleverley (Scholes - 61' )
  • 10 Rooney
  • 14 Hernandez

Substitutes

  • 40 Amos
  • 12 Smalling
  • 13 Park Ji-sung
  • 22 Scholes
  • 25 Valencia (Welbeck - 86' )
  • 42 Pogba
  • 19 Welbeck
Ref: Rocchi
Att: 51,000

Match Stats

Shots

14 9

On target

6 5

Corners

5 8

Fouls

10 5

Live Text Commentary

90:00 +3:02 Full time

Full Time The referee brings the game to a close.

90:00 +1:24

Christian Eriksen produces a cross.

89:51

Effort on goal by Miralem Sulejmani from just inside the area clears the crossbar.

89:13

Corner taken right-footed by Christian Eriksen from the right by-line, Close range headed effort by Miralem Sulejmani clears the crossbar.

88:48

Ismail Aissati takes a shot. Save made by David De Gea.

87:39

Wayne Rooney takes a shot from just inside the penalty box which clears the crossbar.

86:10

Paul Scholes takes the direct free kick.

86:10 Booking

Booking Toby Alderweireld is cautioned by the ref for unsporting behaviour.

86:08

Toby Alderweireld concedes a free kick for a foul on Fabio Da Silva.

85:30 Substitution

Substitution Danny Welbeck joins the action as a substitute, replacing Antonio Valencia.

84:35

Wayne Rooney provided the assist for the goal.

84:35 Goal scored

Goal! - Javier Hernandez - Ajax 0 - 2 Man Utd Javier Hernandez gets on the score sheet with a goal from deep inside the penalty box to the bottom left corner of the goal. Ajax 0-2 Man Utd.

83:56

Miralem Sulejmani takes a shot. Comfortable save by David De Gea.

82:55

The ball is crossed by Christian Eriksen, clearance by Jonathan Evans.

78:59

Jan Vertonghen takes the free kick.

78:59 Substitution

Substitution Aras Ozbiliz leaves the field to be replaced by Jody Lukoki.

78:59

The referee gives a free kick against Javier Hernandez for handball.

76:38

Antonio Valencia takes a short corner.

75:51

Free kick awarded for an unfair challenge on Phil Jones by Nicolai Boilesen. Free kick taken by Phil Jones.

75:11 Substitution

Substitution Antonio Valencia is brought on as a substitute for Ashley Young.

74:46

Javier Hernandez sends in a cross, clearance by Toby Alderweireld.

74:04

The ball is swung over by Christian Eriksen.

73:28

Short corner taken by Christian Eriksen from the left by-line.

73:07

Christian Eriksen takes a shot. Save made by David De Gea.

72:52

Luis Nani takes a shot. Blocked by Toby Alderweireld.

72:17

Unfair challenge on Ashley Young by Toby Alderweireld results in a free kick. Direct free kick taken by Ashley Young.

68:51

Free kick awarded for an unfair challenge on Miralem Sulejmani by Phil Jones. Christian Eriksen takes the free kick.

68:13

Effort from outside the penalty box by Toby Alderweireld goes wide right of the goal.

67:01

Christian Eriksen takes a shot. Save by David De Gea.

63:52

Wayne Rooney has an effort at goal from a long way out that goes wide of the right-hand upright.

63:19

Luis Nani produces a left-footed shot from inside the area that goes over the bar.

62:33

Jonathan Evans takes the free kick.

62:33 Substitution

Substitution Nicolai Boilesen joins the action as a substitute, replacing Dico Koppers.

62:33

Ashley Young fouled by Ismail Aissati, the ref awards a free kick.

60:53

Shot on goal by Aras Ozbiliz from just inside the area clears the crossbar.

60:18 Substitution

Substitution Paul Scholes is brought on as a substitute for Tom Cleverley.

59:49 Substitution

Substitution Dmitri Bulykin goes off and Ricardo Van Rhijn comes on.

58:57 Goal scored

Goal! - Ashley Young - Ajax 0 - 1 Man Utd Ashley Young fires in a goal from inside the area low into the middle of the goal. Ajax 0-1 Man Utd.

58:52

Luis Nani sends in a cross, Jan Vertonghen makes a clearance.

58:21

Inswinging corner taken from the left by-line by Ashley Young, save by Kenneth Vermeer.

58:15

The ball is crossed by Fabio Da Silva, Toby Alderweireld gets a block in.

56:52

Luis Nani takes a outswinging corner from the right by-line played to the near post.

56:25

Unfair challenge on Ashley Young by Ismail Aissati results in a free kick. Direct free kick taken by Ashley Young.

55:15

Ashley Young takes a inswinging corner to the near post, save made by Kenneth Vermeer.

54:24

Unfair challenge on Jonathan Evans by Ismail Aissati results in a free kick. Free kick crossed right-footed by Ashley Young from left wing, clearance by Jan Vertonghen.

53:11

Direct free kick taken by Tom Cleverley.

53:11 Booking

Booking Siem De Jong booked.

53:09

Free kick awarded for an unfair challenge on Ashley Young by Siem De Jong.

52:33

Corner from the left by-line taken by Ashley Young, save made by Kenneth Vermeer.

52:18

The ball is sent over by Luis Nani, clearance made by Jan Vertonghen.

50:55

Toby Alderweireld takes the direct free kick.

50:55 Booking

Booking Fabio Da Silva booked.

50:53

Free kick awarded for a foul by Fabio Da Silva on Siem De Jong.

50:12

The ball is delivered by Aras Ozbiliz.

49:08

Siem De Jong gives away a free kick for an unfair challenge on Tom Cleverley. Free kick taken by David De Gea.

48:27

Dmitri Bulykin has an effort at goal from deep inside the area missing to the right of the target.

48:10

The ball is sent over by Phil Jones, Jan Vertonghen makes a clearance.

46:53

The ball is delivered by Ashley Young.

46:31

Inswinging corner taken by Ashley Young from the left by-line played to the near post, Vurnon Anita makes a clearance.

46:15

Luis Nani takes a shot. Kenneth Vermeer makes a save.

45:01

The second half kicks off.

45:00 +0:09 Half time

Half Time The half-time whistle blows.

43:51

Siem De Jong delivers the ball.

43:38

Free kick awarded for a foul by Javier Hernandez on Ismail Aissati. Free kick taken by Christian Eriksen.

41:30

Fabio Da Silva delivers the ball.

41:10

The ball is crossed by Phil Jones, Vurnon Anita makes a clearance.

41:03

A cross is delivered by Ashley Young, clearance made by Toby Alderweireld.

37:22

Christian Eriksen has an effort at goal. Comfortable save by David De Gea.

36:28

Foul by Jonathan Evans on Dmitri Bulykin, free kick awarded. Free kick taken by Christian Eriksen.

35:55

Shot by Tom Cleverley from outside the box goes over the net.

33:38

The ball is swung over by Miralem Sulejmani, Headed effort from deep inside the penalty area by Siem De Jong goes harmlessly over the crossbar.

33:25

The ball is swung over by Miralem Sulejmani.

33:06

Corner taken short by Christian Eriksen.

32:53

A cross is delivered by Christian Eriksen, blocked by Fabio Da Silva.

32:08

Aras Ozbiliz takes a inswinging corner.

31:47

Effort from 30 yards by Siem De Jong. David De Gea makes a brilliant save.

28:50

A cross is delivered by Luis Nani.

28:12

Michael Carrick fouled by Dmitri Bulykin, the ref awards a free kick. Michael Carrick takes the direct free kick.

27:25

Shot by Aras Ozbiliz. Jonathan Evans gets a block in.

27:18

The ball is crossed by Luis Nani, clearance by Vurnon Anita.

26:56

The ball is crossed by Miralem Sulejmani, clearance by Rio Ferdinand.

26:13

Centre by Ashley Young, blocked by Vurnon Anita.

20:49

A cross is delivered by Luis Nani, Toby Alderweireld manages to make a clearance.

18:25

Wayne Rooney takes a shot. Comfortable save by Kenneth Vermeer.

18:02

The assistant referee signals for offside against Javier Hernandez. Kenneth Vermeer takes the indirect free kick.

17:41

Free kick awarded for a foul by Ismail Aissati on Ashley Young. Michael Carrick takes the free kick.

17:05

Dico Koppers takes a shot. David De Gea makes a comfortable save.

15:53

Centre by Fabio Da Silva, Dico Koppers makes a clearance.

14:43

The ball is delivered by Wayne Rooney.

14:02

Aras Ozbiliz takes a inswinging corner from the right by-line played to the near post, clearance made by Fabio Da Silva.

12:58

Aras Ozbiliz produces a cross, save by David De Gea.

11:36

Miralem Sulejmani delivers the ball, clearance made by Rio Ferdinand.

10:49

Foul by Fabio Da Silva on Aras Ozbiliz, free kick awarded. Aras Ozbiliz takes the direct free kick.

10:05

The assistant referee signals for offside against Javier Hernandez. Indirect free kick taken by Vurnon Anita.

9:18

A cross is delivered by Ashley Young, Toby Alderweireld gets a block in.

8:35

Ashley Young takes a inswinging corner to the near post.

8:28

Ashley Young delivers the ball, Vurnon Anita gets a block in.

5:57

Outswinging corner taken right-footed by Luis Nani from the right by-line to the near post.

0:00

The game kicks-off.

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