Monday 14 December 2015

United await European fate in Europa draw

So the worst case scenario has happened- it's Thursday night football for us in the second tier of European competition in the new year.

As one of the seeded sides, there are 16 possible options for the Reds, including Gary Neville's Valencia and Adnan Januzaj's Borussia Dortmund whilst there are four teams in the draw we've never met competitively (Augsburg- Germany), FC Midtjylland (Denmark), Sevilla (Spain) and Sion from Switzerland.

UEFA rules dictate that the 12 Europa League group winners and and the four best third-placed sides from the Champions League group stage - one of which is us - will be drawn against the 12 runners up from the Europa League groups and the remaining third placed sides from the Champions League.

Clubs from the same country cannot face each other until the quarter finals meaning that we cannot play Spurs or Liverpool at this stage while the Europa League group winners and the four best third-placed sides from the Champions League will play the second legs at home.

This mean that the first leg of our last 32 tie will be played away on Thursday 18 February with the return leg scheduled for a week later at Old Trafford on Thursday 25 February.

It's difficult to know exactly how United should treat the Europa League: on the one hand, it's a chance for a serious crack at the only major trophy United have never won (both as the UEFA and Europa Cups) and will bring valuable experience for the squad's young players.

On the other, having to play Thursday-Sunday every other week- and the possibility of long travails to far flung corners of the continent- could cause serious problems for our league ambitions. 

United have played in the Europa League - formerly the UEFA Cup - once before, under Sir Alex in 2011/12 when we were knocked out at the last 16 stage by an Athletic Club side for whom Ander Herrera was influential. 

Potential opponents for United: Anderlecht (Belgium), Augsburg (Germany), Borussia Dortmund (Germany), Fenerbahce (Turkey), Fiorentina (Italy), Galatasaray (Turkey), Marseille (France), FC Midtyjlland (Denmark), Sevilla (Spain), Saint-Etienne (France), Sion (Switzerland), Sparta Prague (Czech Rep.), Sporting Lisbon (Portugal), Valencia, Villarreal (Spain) 

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