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Everton’s Klaassen still finds Europa League final loss with Ajax ‘painful’

Klaassen was the captain of the Ajax side beaten 2-0 by Manchester United last season.

FOOTBALL 14/09/17 09:41
Everton’s Klaassen still finds Europa League final loss with Ajax ‘painful’

Everton midfielder Davy Klaassen admits he does not want to speak to Wayne Rooney about last season’s Europa League final, the memory of which the Dutchman still finds painful.

Klaassen was the captain of the Ajax side beaten 2-0 by Manchester United in the match in Stockholm, which saw Rooney come off the bench to make his last Red Devils appearance.

The pair are now Everton team-mates and set to feature in the Toffees’ Europa League Group E opener against Atalanta in Reggio Emilia on Thursday evening.

When Klaassen was asked ahead of the contest if he had spoken to Rooney about last term’s final, the 24-year-old said: “I didn’t really talk about it, because I don’t want to talk about the final.”

He was then asked if that defeat had made him even hungrier for success, and said: “I don’t think I needed to lose in the final to be hungry – I think you always have to be hungry.

“Of course, I still feel the pain from last year’s final. But we want to go as far as possible this season, and last season doesn’t count anymore.

“We all start at zero, Thursday is the first (group) game and I think it’s important to start the group stage with a win because that gives you confidence.”

The Europa League has been somewhat unloved by some managers in the past, but United and Jose Mourinho certainly felt its worth last season, with their triumph giving them access to the Champions League.

Everton boss Ronald Koeman, whose men play United away on Sunday, has indicated he will make some changes for Thursday’s game but emphasised he will pick a “strong” team and that he takes the Europa League “really seriously”.

He appeared to signal that Rooney will be keeping his starting place against the Italian outfit.

The 31-year-old forward – due to appear at Stockport Magistrates’ Court on Monday having been charged with drink-driving on September 1 – played the full duration on Saturday as Everton suffered a 3-0 home loss Tottenham.

And Koeman also said at the pre-match press conference in Reggio Emilia: “After last weekend, we need to react. In that second half (which began with Tottenham scoring their third in opening few seconds) we lost a lot of belief and confidence. I think we didn’t play with the right aggression.

“The second half is not what we expect from ourselves.

“But okay – that is the nicest part in football. If you lose the game, if you are not happy with the performance, and you get an opportunity in the next few days, you like to show it.

“For that, I am really confident about Thursday.”

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