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Manchester United tops Ajax in emotional Europa League victory

STOCKHOLM, May 24 (Reuters) - Manchester United's Paul Pogba and Henrikh Mkhitaryan scored a goal in each half as their team comfortably outclassed Ajax Amsterdam to win an emotional Europa League final 2-0 and qualify for the group stages of the Champions League.

A minute's silence held for the victims of Monday's suicide bombing at a pop concert in Manchester in which 22 people died turned into applause as chants of "Manchester" and "We'll Never Die" bellowed out from the English supporters before the match.

World record signing Pogba opened the scoring in the 18th minute as United won the ball after an Ajax throw-in, the Frenchman's shot taking a wicked deflection to wrong-foot goalkeeper Andre Onana and fly into the net.

Mkhitaryan then flicked the ball home early in the second half following a corner and, with chants of "Manchester, Manchester" echoing around the stadium, United held on to win the one European trophy missing from the Old Trafford cabinet.

"We know things like this are very sad all over the world," said Pogba referring to the attack. "We had to focus. Manchester - we won for them. We played for England, we played for Manchester and we played for them -- the people who died."

RELATED: Tributes to the victims of the Manchester Arena attack

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Tributes to the victims of the Manchester Arena attack
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Tributes to the victims of the Manchester Arena attack
A woman lays flowers for the victims of the Manchester Arena attack, in central Manchester, Britain May 23, 2017. REUTERS/Darren Staples
Police officers look at flowers and messages left for the victims of the Manchester Arena attack, in central Manchester, Britain May 23, 2017. REUTERS/Darren Staples
Britain Football Soccer - Manchester United Training - Manchester United Training Ground - 23/5/17 Manchester United players and staff stand for a minute of silence during training honouring the people killed and wounded in an explosion at Manchester Arena Reuters / Andrew Yates Livepic
Flowers and messages for the victims of the Manchester Arena attack are seen in central Manchester, Britain May 23, 2017. REUTERS/Darren Staples
A woman lays flowers for the victims of the Manchester Arena attack, in central Manchester, Britain May 23, 2017. REUTERS/Darren Staples
A man writes a message on the pavement in central Manchester, Britain May 23, 2017. REUTERS/Darren Staples
70th Cannes Film Festival - Tribute for Manchester - Cannes, France. 23/05/2017. Cannes Film Festival general delegate Thierry Fremaux, Cannes Film festival president Pierre Lescure, actress Isabelle Huppert and staff members observe a minute of silence on the red carpet. REUTERS/Eric Gaillard
Flowers as a tribute for victims of Monday's suicide bombing at Manchester Arena in the English city of Manchester are seen in front of the British embassy in Berlin, Germany May 23, 2017. REUTERS/Fabrizio Bensch
A man photographs a sign in Manchester, Britain May 23, 2017. REUTERS/Stefan Wermuth
MANCHESTER, ENGLAND - MAY 23: Messages are left amongst tributes left by members of the public in St Ann Square on Tuesday, May 23, 2017 in Manchester,England. At least 22 people were killed in a suicide bombing at a pop concert packed with children in the northern English city of Manchester, in the worst terror incident on British soil since the London bombings of 2005.� (Photo by Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images)
MANCHESTER, ENGLAND - MAY 23: Flowers left by members of the NHS are left in St. Anne's Square on May 23, 2017 in Manchester, England. Prime Minister Theresa May held a COBRA meeting this morning following a suicide attack at Manchester Arena as concert goers were leaving the venue after Ariana Grande had performed. Greater Manchester Police have confirmed the explosion as a terrorist attack with 22 fatalities and 59 injured. (Photo by Leon Neal/Getty Images)
PARIS, FRANCE - MAY 23: A British Union Jack flag flies at half-mast on top of the embassy of Great Britain in tribute to the victims of the terrorist attack the last night in Manchester on May 23, 2017 in Paris, France. An explosion occurred at Manchester Arena as concert goers were leaving the venue after Ariana Grande had performed. Greater Manchester Police are treating the explosion as a terrorist attack and have confirmed 22 fatalities and 59 injured. The President of the French Republic, Emmanuel Macron will go this afternoon to the British Embassy to sign the book of condolences. (Photo by Chesnot/Getty Images)
People pass flowers left in front of the British embassy in Kiev on May 23, 2017, in tribute to victims of deadly Manchester Arena terror attack. Twenty two people have been killed and dozens injured in Britain's deadliest terror attack in over a decade after a suspected suicide bomber targeted fans leaving a concert of US singer Ariana Grande in Manchester. / AFP PHOTO / SERGEI SUPINSKY (Photo credit should read SERGEI SUPINSKY/AFP/Getty Images)
A woman lays flowers in front of the British embassy in Kiev on May 23, 2017, in tribute to victims of deadly Manchester Arena terror attack. Twenty two people have been killed and dozens injured in Britain's deadliest terror attack in over a decade after a suspected suicide bomber targeted fans leaving a concert of US singer Ariana Grande in Manchester. / AFP PHOTO / SERGEI SUPINSKY (Photo credit should read SERGEI SUPINSKY/AFP/Getty Images)
Religious leaders hold a prayer meeting in central Manchester, Britain May 23, 2017. REUTERS/Darren Staples
Flowers as a tribute for victims of Monday's suicide bombing at Manchester Arena in the English city of Manchester are seen in front of the British embassy in Berlin, Germany May 23, 2017. REUTERS/Fabrizio Bensch
A woman places flowers on an impromptu memorial at Manchester Town Hall for the victims of an attack at Manchester Arena, Manchester, Britain, May 24, 2017. REUTERS/Jon Super
People stop to look at flowers and messsages on an impromptu memorial in St Anns Square for the victims of an attack at Manchester Arena, Manchester, Britain, May 24, 2017. REUTERS/Jon Super
Women pay their respects to all those affected by the bomb attack, following a vigil in central Manchester, Britain May 23, 2017. REUTERS/Peter Nicholls
Women react after lighting candles for the victims of the Manchester Arena attack, in central Manchester, May 23, 2017. REUTERS/Darren Staples
The water fountain (jet d'eau) is lit with blue, red and white in remembrance for the victims of an attack on concert goers at Manchester Arena, in Geneva, Switzerland, May 23, 2017. REUTERS/Denis Balibouse
A woman looks at flowers for the victims of the Manchester Arena attack, in central Manchester Britain May 23, 2017. REUTERS/Stefan Wermuth
People take part in a vigil for the victims of an attack on concert goers at Manchester Arena, in central Manchester, Britain May 23, 2017. REUTERS/Peter Nicholls
MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA - MAY 23: The colors of the Union Jack, the national flag of the United Kingdom, are projected on to the Melbourne Town Hall as a tribute to Manchester Bombing victims on May 23, 2017 in Melbourne, Australia. An explosion occurred at Manchester Arena as concert goers were leaving the venue after Ariana Grande had performed. Greater Manchester Police are treating the explosion as a terrorist attack and have confirmed 22 fatalities and 59 injured. (Photo by Michael Dodge/Getty Images)
MANCHESTER, ENGLAND - MAY 24: Members of the public pause to look at floral tributes and messages as the working day begins on May 24, 2017 in Manchester, England. An explosion occurred at Manchester Arena on the evening of May 22 as concert goers were leaving the venue after Ariana Grande had performed. Greater Manchester Police are treating the explosion as a terrorist attack and have confirmed 22 fatalities and 59 injured. (Photo by Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images)
Floral tributes, messages and candles are pictured in Albert Square in Manchester, northwest England on May 24, 2017, as tributes to the victims of the May 22 terror attack at the Manchester Arena. Police on Tuesday named Salman Abedi -- reportedly British-born of Libyan descent -- as the suspect behind a suicide bombing that ripped into young fans at an Ariana Grande concert at the Manchester Arena on May 22, as the Islamic State group claimed responsibility for the carnage. / AFP PHOTO / CHRIS J RATCLIFFE (Photo credit should read CHRIS J RATCLIFFE/AFP/Getty Images)
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"The goal was to win all the way through this season. We've done it, and we're proud," said Pogba. "People say we've had a bad season but the prize is great and we've done it now. We have three trophies so enjoy it now," he added.

United's triumph followed success in the League Cup and the Community Shield in Jose Mourinho's first season in charge at Old Trafford with Champions League football secured after United could only manage a sixth-place finish in the Premier League.

"We preferred to reach the Champions League this way than finish fourth, third or second," said Mourinho. "We got the objective, we are back in the Champions League by winning a title, an important title. The club now has every title in world football. We fought hard for this since the beginning."

IMPOSING START

United, wearing all blue as they did in winning the 1968 European Cup final, made an imposing start, with Pogba whistling a shot wide of the near post within the first minute.

The France midfielder was all over the pitch, appearing as a third center back one moment to head the ball away from danger, channeling pinpoint passes to striker Marcus Rashford the next.

Pogba, who first came to United at the age of 16 before leaving for Juventus, put his side ahead with a hopeful low shot from the edge of the area that was sent looping past Onana in the Ajax goal thanks to a huge deflection from Davinson Sanchez.

Mourinho's coaching staff flew out of the dugout in celebration but the Portuguese stayed calm.

Ajax, fielding the youngest starting lineup in a European final, were expected to make a quick start as they did in their 4-1 win over Olympique Lyonnais in their semi-final first leg.

Instead the Dutch side were fenced in by United, nullified by Marouane Fellaini and man of the match Ander Herrera in the middle and stretched by Rashford's darting runs.

They were given no time to settle in the second half as Mkhitaryan leapt to knock Chris Smalling's knockdown from a corner into the roof of the net after 48 minutes.

Ajax hogged the ball for the rest of the match but rarely looked like getting past United, who saw the game out to preserve Mourinho's 100 percent record in European finals and deliver the continental trophy missing from their collection. (Editing by Ken Ferris)

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