No matter the outcome of the Europa League final tonight against Manchester United, 24 May will always have a special sentiment for Ajax and its fans.
On 24 May, 1995, Ajax managed to achieve the unthinkable; winning the Champions League with a team that was only 25 years old on average, beating Italian giants AC Milan 1-0 in the final.
Exactly 22 years later, Ajax have the opportunity once again to do something the club and its fans could not have possibly imagined. It is fitting, then, that the teams of then and now share so many connections beyond the iconic red and white jersey, as the Netherlands’ most successful club will try to end its longest title drought in continental competition.
Edwin van der Sar, who was the goalkeeper in that famous Ajax side and won a Champions League with Manchester United to boot, is now the general director of the club from the capital. Former Arsenal player Marc Overmars, currently the director of football at Ajax, was another starter that night in Vienna, taking up duties on the left wing.
And with 18-year old Justin Kluivert in the side 22 years after his father Patrick became the youngest player to score a winner in a Champions League final, there might even be some historic on-pitch involvement, although the Dutch will be fearful of Manchester United’s Daley Blind denying the club that his father Danny captained to the Amsterdammers’ last European triumph.
The shadow of a team managed by another mutual acquaintance of both Manchester United and Ajax lingers over the final in Sweden – in 1995, Louis van Gaal was in charge of the Dutch club. Yet the current manager who has revitalized Ajax after a few stale years considers himself a disciple of the late Johan Cruyff.