MANY clubs do not respect this competition but I only have good memories of it.
In my first season as a professional with Borussia Monchengladbach, when I was 18, we went to the final, which was something special.
Then I won it twice when it was the Uefa Cup, with Inter in 1991 and Bayern Munich five years later.
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In those days it was much harder. The second club in every top country played in it.
With Inter, we had to play Rapid Vienna, Aston Villa and Partisan Belgrade — tough opponents — just to get to the last eight.
Every match was like a final.
Then we had to beat Sporting Lisbon and Roma.
But since the Champions League was expanded, the quality and interest has gone down, especially when it comes to the group phase.
I’m happy we have a final like this. It’s the best final we could have had.
Most of the great results of Ajax were a long time ago, when they had so many fantastic players. Nobody needs to talk about the history of Manchester United, because everybody knows it.
United, with their coach and concept of playing, are not like Ajax at all.
The Dutch side have a very young team, full of fast attacking players.
I watched their quarter-final with Schalke and they showed a very good mentality.
They never gave up, even when they were down to ten men and it seemed everything was going against them.
One thing is Ajax have a fall-back option for the Champions League.
United do not. This is their last shot.
They have to win to be in Europe’s elite club competition next season. But Ajax, who finished second in the Dutch league, can get in it through the play-offs in August.
That means the pressure is on United to win.
THE big threat to United is Kasper Dolberg, the young Danish striker.
He is a player who can make a defence crazy. He’s fast and young and I’m sure a lot of bigger clubs will be looking to sign him after the season he’s had.
Dolberg played very well in the Europa League and in the Dutch Eredivisie and if Ajax are going to win the final he is the most likely reason. Dolberg will certainly be very important and what I like is that he is not one of those forwards who waits for the ball to come his way.
He looks to go wide, never stops working and is happy to go left or right to get in the game.
Dolberg is everywhere, runs a lot and changes his position, including dropping into midfield to pick up the ball. He’s very much a team player and you cannot stop him completely.
POG IN A POKE
I’M NOT a fan of Paul Pogba. Maybe he is a talent but I don’t see him as any more than that.
When I look at his transfer fee and what he has done, it is not anywhere near enough. I expect much more from someone who cost £89million.
You can maybe say that he is young and it was an investment for the future but he has to prove it.
I don’t think Pogba, 24, is a leader. I have been looking for more, particularly in the moments when the team is not working well.
When a game runs out of your hands is when you look for someone like Pogba to hold the team together and give them rhythm, but I feel he only plays for himself.
I feel he has under-performed, maybe not for United, but for me he has to show he can be that sort of leader and I am concerned about his temperament in big games as well.
He doesn’t always control himself and that can be dangerous for his team, especially in a final.
NO RASH IN THE PAN
UNITED are missing Zlatan Ibrahimovic, their hero.
But Zlatan’s injury has been good for Marcus Rashford because I’m not sure he would have played if Ibrahimovic had been fit.
I’ve followed Rashford for the last 18 months, watching him emerge for United and England, scoring the important goals and I have been impressed every time I see him.
What I like is his speed, technique and confidence, especially given how he is still only 19 years of age.
He has a great future for United and England.
AJAX have nothing to lose and it should be an open game. They can play as they want, without being afraid.
While United have reached the final — and that is an achievement — they did not show the calmness I expected against either Anderlecht or Celta Vigo, who both caused them real problems.
But I always feel experience is so valuable in a final and United have far more of that.
Mourinho will know how to close the game down, as well, if they get in front.
The last European final he was involved in saw Inter beat Bayern 2-0 in the 2010 Champions League. I expect the same score in Stockholm.