Manchester attack weighs on Ajax, United entering Europa League final
STOCKHOLM (AP) – The ''glow'' has been taken off the Europa League final because of the deadly bomb attack in Manchester that killed at least 22 people, Ajax coach Peter Bosz said on Tuesday.
''Tomorrow evening should be a football feast,'' Bosz said of Wednesday's game in Stockholm, ''but because of events in Manchester, we're all affected, particularly as we're playing against Manchester.''
The attack took place at the end of an Ariana Grande concert in central Manchester late Monday.
The wives and children of some Ajax players attended one of the American pop star's concerts in Amsterdam about two weeks ago.
''My wife and my child were there (in Amsterdam),'' said Ajax midfielder Lasse Schone, who added that he was ''devastated'' by the attack. ''It's so close (to the final). It's terrible. It's horrible.''
United manager Jose Mourinho's pre-match news conference was canceled at the request of the English club, although the somber nature of United's build-up to the game was underlined in comments Mourinho gave to the club's official website.
Mourinho said the victims and their families were in ''our minds and our hearts'' and that ''we cannot fly with the happiness that we always have before a big game.''
UEFA confirmed early Tuesday that the final would go ahead as planned and Bosz said that the decision was out of his control, even if there is a ''shadow hanging over this match.''
''It's terrible what happened there,'' he said, ''but it's for other people to decide that.''
''This match was something we were all looking forward to, it should be one big celebration,'' Bosz added, ''and something like this happens two days before.''
UEFA said there will be a minute's silence before the final in honor of the victims, and that the opening ceremony will be ''considerably reduced'' as a mark of respect.
United's players observed a minute's silence at a morning training session on Tuesday before flying to Stockholm.
Mourinho led United's players onto the field at Friends Arena, the venue for the final, for a short team walk on Tuesday evening.