Manchester United and Ajax are no strangers to European glory and one of them will add to their trophy collection when they meet in a mouth-watering Europa League final in Stockholm on May 24.
Both sides edged through thrilling semi-final second legs, with Jose Mourinho's men overcoming unfancied Celta Vigo as the Dutch giants dug deep to sneak past Lyon.
Now they have one more hurdle to clear to get their hands on more European silverware and it is United who are fancied to win the competition for the first time after being priced up as the 4/9 favourites to lift the trophy.
The Red Devils are 10/11 to win in 90 minutes while Ajax are 37/20 in the outright betting and 16/5 to triumph without the need for extra time, with odds of 23/10 for at least an extra 30 minutes to be needed to separate these teams.
With a place in the Champions League available to the winners, there is more than just a European trophy at stake and Mourinho has targeted all his efforts on winning the competition rather than securing a top-four place in the Premier League.
Getting to the Europa League final is a slog for any team and Mourinho felt his injury-hit squad could not realistically compete on both fronts.
In terms of their route to the final, United finished second in their Europa League group to Fenerbahce after winning in Ukraine against Zorya in the final match but St Etienne in the round of 32 was relatively straightforward.
Rostov, one of the sides that dropped out of the Champions League, were also comfortably overcome, although it took extra-time to overcome Anderlecht at the quarter-final juncture. The semi-finals were not much easier as Celta pushed until the last and could have denied United in the last few seconds of their semi-final.
Ajax had finished top – above Celta – in Group G. Having edged past Legia Warsaw and FC Copenhagen – two sides that had been in the Champions League group stage – Peter Bosz's men beat Schalke 4-3 on aggregate after extra-time to reach the semi-finals.
Ajax sent ripples around European football by thrashing Lyon 4-1 on home turf but had to battle to keep the French side to a 3-1 win in the second leg.
They have not travelled well and United’s status as favourites is partly based on doubts whether the young Dutch side can cope with the occasion at a neutral venue where their fans will be outnumbered.
In their favour is the fact that a serious knee injury has denied Swedish top scorer Zlatan Ibrahimovic the chance to win the Europa League on home soil.
It has left a large void for United that Marcus Rashford has done well to fill, playing an integral role in both matches against Celta Vigo having fired United through the quarter-final against Anderlecht with a fine, extra-time strike.
Still only 19, the forward's finishing is as impressive as his movement and composure and Rashford is the favourite to score the first goal at 21/5 while he is 7/4 to score at any time and 27/10 to be on target in a United win.
Rashford is one of several key players for United and Ajax are another team built on collective effort. What the Dutch side lack in experience they make up for in talent and youthful exuberance. Kasper Dolberg, Ajax's own 19-year-old front man, has flourished this season and is 7/1 for the first goal while Bertrand Traore, Hakim Ziyech and Amin Younes are other attackers to have impressed.
Davy Klaasen is Ajax's captain while Justin Kluivert – son of Patrick – and Matthijs de Ligt are talented teenagers.
Neither side has achieved their ambitions in the league this season. United won the League Cup but their hopes of a top-four finish would have been vastly increased had they shown a cutting edge during a 25-match unbeaten league run punctuated by draws.
Ajax went into the final weekend with hope of succeeding PSV Eindhoven as champions but leaders Feyenoord held their nerve at home to Heracles, meaning the Amsterdam side finished a point behind them despite a 3-1 win against Willem II.
As well as Ibrahimovic, United will be missing several more star names. The list includes David de Gea but that is for selection reasons, with Mourinho having confirmed Sergio Romero will start in goal barring injury.
The Argentina goalkeeper has played 11 of the 14 Europa League matches this season and will get the nod to start the final.
“No dilemma, no dilemma,” Mourinho said when asked about the selection poser. “They are two fantastic goalkeepers. I never saw in all my career two goalkeepers to be so friendly because it is a position where you always have a little bit of rivalry, especially if you are both the same kind of level.
“We are speaking about the Argentina national goalkeeper and the Spain national goalkeeper. They are friends and they support each other all the time. I never saw a bad face, I always saw them supporting each other.
“I think it is fair that Sergio is going to play the final and David accepts. He accepts that especially because he has already played Europa League matches and if we win the trophy, David wins the trophy because he played two matches against Feyenoord and against Fenerbahce.
“But if everything goes normal and we have no problems, Sergio plays the final.”
Regardless of who is in goal, United are 32/25 to keep a clean sheet and are 21/10 for victory in 90 minutes without conceding.
Marcos Rojo, Ashley Young, Luke Shaw and Tim Fosu-Mensah are on United’s injury list while Eric Bailly is suspended following his moment of madness in the second leg of the semi-final.
So impressive since arriving from Villarreal last summer, the 23-year-old was shown a straight red card for raising his hands during a heated end to the 1-1 draw.
Injuries and suspensions have added to Mourinho’s frustration at a fixture schedule which he has described as “crazy”.
Balancing the desire to win with resting players has been difficult and Mourinho joked it would have been worse was it not for Ander Herrera's sending off in the FA Cup quarter-final defeat at Chelsea.
“The accumulation of the games, I never had that,” Mourinho said. “You know that in all of my career I was never (knocked) out of European competitions in the group phases and in the last 16 I was out only once. So I reached the semi-finals 10 times, I go always until the end of the competitions.
“In the League Cup I normally go far. In the domestic competitions cups, I won in Spain, in Italy, in Portugal so I normally have a lot of matches. But like this I never have, I never have.
“This situation of you play a final and the game that you should play that day is going to be postponed until the last week, for the last week! This is crazy.
“And I repeat the same – thank you Michael Oliver because we were out in the FA Cup because if we go to the FA Cup semi-finals it would be a total disaster. I don't know when we would be playing that game.
“I never, ever have had a situation like this and on top of that the accumulation of big injuries, not small, not the injuries that you say 'okay, hamstring, two weeks'.
“No. It's surgery, boom, boom. It's surgery – one knee, another knee. Another foot. Just big surgeries.
“So fewer players and fewer players and fewer players. It's very difficult, really very difficult. But we are there and we go to the final.”
Mourinho may feel things have been stacking up against United but adopting such a siege mentality is nothing new and the Red Devils are still not short of quality, especially in midfield where the likes of Paul Pogba, Ander Herrera and Marouane Fellaini should be able to dominate.
The summer break is now on the horizon but Mourinho will demand one last effort from his players as United seek to win the only major trophy to have eluded them in their success-laden history.
After edging past Celta Vigo, Mourinho said: “In the end, when the game was difficult, when they were better than us and we were in trouble and not playing well, it was that mentality, that desire, that togetherness that made the boys fight until the end.
“The final means an opportunity to win a trophy, to be back in the Champions League and to end the season in the perfect way because it is the last match of the season.”
If they do have to dig deep, United are 9/1 to clinch victory in extra-time and 13/1 to come out on top in a penalty shootout but their fans will hope for a less stressful evening. United are 28/25 to score first and win the match while they are also 13/5 to win by at least two goals.