Monday, 14 December 2015

Midtjylland tie latest foray in Europe's second competition

United have played 35 ties in Europe's second club competition that has been known under a number of names as we prepare for our second sojourn in the UEFA Europa League. 

We first played in what was then the Inter-Cities Fairs Cup in the 1964/65 season, losing narrowly to Ferencvaros in the semi-finals in a third game having drawn 3-3 on aggregate over the two legs in the days before penalty shootouts.

Three seasons of European Cup football followed- two semi-final defeats sandwiched between that unforgettable night at Wembley when we became the first English club to lift the famous old trophy. 

Following seven seasons away from continental competition, United set out for their first season in the newly rebranded UEFA Cup- 12 years after that initial meeting with Ferencvaros.
Victory over the-then mighty Ajax set up a second round meeting with Juventus- with the Italian outfit overturning a first leg deficit on their way to eventual victory over Atletico Madrid in the final. 


The eighties was by far United's most frequent UEFA Cup decade- with first round exits in 1980/81 and then 1982/83- to Widzew Lodz and Valencia respectively.
In fact, that period of the club's history proved to be a frustrating string of near-misses under Ron Atkinson- with a single season in the Cup Winners Cup ended by Juventus- again- at the semi final stage in 1983/84.

After wins over Gyori (5-2 agg), PSV (1-0 agg) and Dundee United (5-4 agg), our last eight loss to Videoton (0-1 agg) in the 1984/85 UEFA Cup proved to be the Reds last in Europe as a whole until 1990.

United would have played in the 1986/87 and 1988/89 UEFA Cup but a ban on English sides in all European competition because of Heysel put paid to that.

By now, Fergie was at the helm and steered the side to Cup Winners Cup glory in 1991, but the UEFA Cup campaign two seasons later was short-lived as Russian side Torpedo Moscow went through on penalties after two dire goalless games (the Old Trafford leg being notable only for Gary Neville's debut for the club).

It was a similar story in 1995/96 with another first round exit to Russian opponents- this time Rotor Volgograd went through on away goals- but Peter Schmeichel scored in the 2-2 draw at OT.

16 consecutive seasons of Champions League football were to follow- with United only appearing once in what was now the Europa League.
United entered the 2011/12 competition at the last 32 stage, but having edged out Ajax 3-2 on aggregate, Ander Herrera and Athletic Club proved too strong in the last 16 and ran out 3-5 winners on their way to that year's final. 


What will this season's competition bring..



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