Biggest age gap this century for a final and Dutch side are youngest for 20 years — listen to the game live on TalkSport
“YOU don’t win anything with kids,” is a phrase which has become folklore in English football.
Alan Hansen uttered the famous words following a 3-1 opening day defeat for a youthful Manchester United side against Aston Villa in 1995.
But ‘Fergie’s Fledglings’ as they became affectionately known finished the season as Premier League and FA Cup winners.
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Tonight, Ajax put that theory to the test as they look set to name a starting line-up whose average is 22 years and 281 days for the Europa League clash against United, accoridng to Bwin.
So, historically does youth have the edge over experience?
In a word, yes.
Youth has triumphed over experience in 12 times out of 19 since the introduction of a one-legged Uefa Cup final in 1998.
Today, CSKA Moscow’s 2004-05 side is the youngest team to win the tournament when they beat Sporting Libson in the Portuguese capital with an average age of 23 years and 138 days.
However, the next youngest, Athletic Bilbao, lost to Atletico Madrid in 2011-12 with a team whose age averaged out at 24 years and 271 days.
The next four youngest finalists, Shakhtar Donetsk in 2008-09 (25 years and six days), Atletico in 2011-12 (25 years and 331 days), Porto in 2010-11 (25 years and 341 days) and Liverpool in 2000-01 (26 years and 27 days) all won.
Five of the six oldest finalists all lost — including Fulham and Arsenal — with Gunners’ conquerors, Galatarasay, the only side to buck that trend with a side whose average age was 30 years and 118 days in 1999-00.
Should United start with same starting XI as in the semi-final second leg against Celta Vigo, the average age would be 26 years and 254 days.
And that would be the biggest gap this century — which spells further bad news for Jose Mourinho and his players.
The five finals with the biggest age gaps have been won by the younger team.
In 2009-10, Atletico’s average age was three years and 249 days younger than rivals, Fulham, which is the current largest.
Ajax’s current side is actually younger than their own team which won the Champions League in 1994-95 with an average age of 24 years and 362 days.
And even United’s Double-winning side of 1995-96, which averaged out at 24 years and 335 days.