What would Manchester United look like if they were as young as Ajax?
You might not recognise all the names in this line-up.
When Manchester United play Ajax in the Europa League final this week, they might face a side a little younger than they’re used to.
That’s because the Dutch side have fielded an incredibly youthful team throughout the season, with the XI that started the 3-1 win over Willem II earlier this month averaging out at just 20 years and 139 days of age.
Ajax have named the youngest-ever starting XI in Eredivisie history.— Squawka Football (@Squawka) May 14, 2017
Average age: 20 years, 139 days.
But what would happen if United had to field a team of players no older than Ajax’s? Well, this is what it might look like.
Goalkeeper: Joel Castro Pereira, 20
Ajax: Andre Onana, 21
We start with the goalies, and Joel Castro Pereira already has a year on Ajax’s Andre Onana.
Onana has played 45 games for Ajax across all competitions this year. Pereira only has four Premier League 2 (under-23 youth league) appearances to his name this season, but did play in United’s 2-0 win against Crystal Palace in their final league game of the season, earning a clean sheet.
Right-back: Axel Tuanzebe, 19
Ajax: Kenny Tete, 21
Neither Axel Tuanzebe nor Kenny Tete have a huge amount of experience, and you might fancy the United defender over Tete on this occasion despite being two years Tete’s junior.
While the Ajax man has played eight Europa League fixtures and five Dutch Eredivisie games this year, Tuanzebe broke through in a league game against Arsenal earlier in the month and played well.
United lost 2-0, but the 19-year-old impressed against Alexis Sanchez and has played three league games since.
Centre-back: Cameron Borthwick-Jackson, 20
Ajax: Davison Sanchez, 20
Cameron Borthwick-Jackson played 14 games for United last year, but after going on loan to Wolverhampton Wanderers this season, has appeared just seven times.
Meanwhile Davison Sanchez has notched 43 appearances this season as well as six goals as Ajax finished second in the Dutch Eredivisie, losing out by one point to Feyenoord.
Centre-back: Jake Barrett, 17
Ajax: Matthijs de Ligt, 17
U18s: FT - #MUFC 1 Sunderland 1. The Reds recover from Lee Connelly's first-half goal to level through sub Jake Barrett in the 90th minute.— Manchester United (@ManUtd) October 8, 2016
Somewhat unsurprisingly Manchester United don’t have a 17-year-old centre-back closing in on a place in the first team.
What they do have, in the under-18s squad, is Jake Barrett, who has seven under-18 Premier League appearances, including one against Arsenal’s youth side.
At Ajax, 17-year-old Matthijs de Ligt has played 20 times this season, including for the Netherlands in a 2-0 World Cup-qualifying defeat to Bulgaria.
Left-back: Timothy Fosu-Mensah, 19
Ajax: Jairo Riedewald, 20
Jairo Riedewald has 22 games under his belt at Ajax this season, but Timothy Fosu-Mensah has also enjoyed a good couple of years, and is a year younger too.
Fosu-Mensah, who joined United from Ajax, has an FA Cup to his name, as well as 10 appearances last season and 11 appearances this year, including playing in the 1-1 draw away to Anderlecht in United’s Europa League quarter-final in April. Impressive.
Central midfield: Paul Pogba, 24
Ajax: Davy Klaassen, 24
Davy Klaassen is the OAP of Ajax’s side, at a practically Jurassic 24 years of age.
With 18 goals in 51 games he’s a key man for the Dutch side, but then so is Paul Pogba for Manchester United. The talented French midfielder is finding his feet at United after a difficult season, and is crucial to his side both in defence and attack.
Central midfield: Scott McTominay, 20
Ajax: Frenkie de Jong, 20
From experience to a lack of it – Ajax’s Frenkie de Jong has just eight appearances to his name this season, but that’s four times as many as the two Scott McTominay has made for United.
McTominay was brought on as a substitute against Arsenal earlier in May and did little wrong, earning some game time against Crystal Palace in the final round of Premier League fixtures as a result.
Central midfield: Matty Willock, 20
Ajax: Donny van de Beek, 20
Donny van de Beek has featured 28 times for Ajax this season, while Matty Willock’s game time has been restricted to 21 Premier League 2 appearances.
United finished the season sixth, but Willock did manage to score a memorable goal in stoppage time at Anfield to win the game for the Old Trafford side against Liverpool.
Left forward: Angel Gomes, 16
Ajax: Justin Kluivert, 18
The 18-year-old Justin Kluivert, son of legendary striker Patrick Kluivert, is making a good impression at the club where his father won the Champions League, with 20 appearances and two goals this season.
And while Angel Gomes has made just one senior Manchester United appearance, he is two years Kluivert’s junior, and became the first footballer born this millennium to appear in the Premier League against Crystal Palace on Sunday, at 16 years and 263 days of age.
Centre forward: Marcus Rashford, 19
Ajax: Kasper Dolberg, 19
You thought Marcus Rashford was good? Well, with 57 appearances and 11 goals to his name it’s certainly not been a bad second season in the spotlight for the 19-year-old.
But Kasper Dolberg of Ajax has some impressive numbers as well, with 44 games and 22 goals, including a substitute appearance for Denmark in a 4-1 World Cup-qualifying win against Kazakhstan.
Right forward: Devonte Redmond, 20
Ajax: David Neres, 20
Neither of these two have grabbed many headlines this season. Manchester United’s Devonte Redmond managed 21 appearances and three goals at Premier League 2 level, while Brazilian David Neres has three goals in 11 games.
Do either of them have what it takes to break into their respective first teams?