Football

Cruyff to United: Beware of Bosz

Ex-United winger Cruyff warns Devils that Ajax boss can scupper their Champions League hopes

FINAL
AJAX AMSTERDAM MAN UNITED

Jordi Cruyff knows better than most the threat Ajax coach Peter Bosz poses to Jose Mourinho's Manchester United side in the Europa League final.

The teams go head to head at Stockholm's Friends Arena on Thursday morning (Singapore time), with Ajax's talented youngsters looking to end Man United's Champions League hopes and land a first continental trophy in 22 years.

Cruyff joined the Dutch club aged seven, although he never played for the first team as he moved to Spain in 1988 when his late father Johan - after whom the Amsterdam club's stadium is set to be renamed - was appointed Barcelona coach.

The 43-year-old knows what it is like to line up for United, though, having signed for Sir Alex Ferguson's side from Barcelona in 1996.

"United is the club with the bigger budget, with bigger signings, probably a bit more pressure but more experienced players that are all good players," Cruyff told Press Association Sport.

"You always think in finals it always gives an edge, but Ajax is difficult because they can have two sides.

"They can have the invincible, unstoppable side that beat Schalke at home and Lyon 4-1, or it can have the other side in which their players are a bit nervous and they have their away form. You just never know.

"If United has the bad luck that Ajax has a good game, it is going to be a very open and tough game."

Cruyff will be watching the match from Israel, where he has worked as Maccabi Tel Aviv's sports director since 2012. And he is a big admirer of Bosz.

"I remember when we sold (manager) Slavisa Jokanovic to Fulham (in 2015), I was speaking on the phone with my father and I said, 'Listen, I've got to try to get this guy, Peter Bosz'," Cruyff recalled.

“Ajax is difficult because they can have two sides... If United has the bad luck that Ajax has a good game, it is going to be a very open and tough game.”Jordi Cruyff warns his former club Manchester United of the threat posed by Ajax Amsterdam

"My father sort of laughed and said, 'Well, you've got good taste, but it is probably going to be impossible mission'.

"Those words just made it like, 'No, this is the guy - we're going to do everything we can'."

Cruyff's determination, and contact over several years, bore fruit as Bosz left Vitesse Arnhem to take the reins in Israel in January 2016.

A diligent head coach with a "360 awareness" thanks to his playing days as a defensive midfielder, Cruyff speaks glowingly of his 53-year-old compatriot's attacking mindset.

Players are charged with regaining possession within five seconds and playing vertically whenever possible - an approach that led Maccabi to go unbeaten in 23 matches under him and Ajax to come calling last summer.

Bosz speaks fondly of his brief time in Israel and in particular an invaluable week spent with Johan Cruyff that taught him "enough for 10 years".

"He loves my father," Jordi said. "My father visited here once in a while and used to love to go to the training.

"When it's a Dutch coach, obviously there is no language barrier and a similar football philosophy.

"They spent quite some hours in the week that my father spent here talking about football, about this, about that.

"But even though Peter Bosz might have adopted my father's style of football, the way my father liked it, I must also say he has his own touch of personality."

Ajax and United will be battling for not only the Europa League trophy on Thursday morning but also the Champions League berth that comes with it.

Jose Mourinho was keen to make a swift exit after United beat Crystal Palace 2-0 at Old Trafford on Sunday.

Having seen the youngest United team in Premier League history wrap up the club's domestic season with the win, Mourinho left little time for post-match media commitments.

The Portuguese spoke to United's in-house channel MUTV only very briefly following the game, saying: "Don't ask me too many things because now I am in a final.

"Let me go home, I am in a final now."

When then asked if he knew his team for the final in Stockholm, Mourinho replied: "I know, but let me go. I am in a final now." - PA SPORT

EUROPA LEAGUEManchester UnitedChampions League