Tuesday 14 February 2017

Opposition profile: AS Saint-Etienne

United have been drawn against Ligue 1 side AS Saint-Etienne in the Europa League round of 32 with the first leg at Old Trafford on Thursday.

Here, we take a detailed look at 'Le Verts' European pedigree, their history and key men including their own Mr Pogba (yes, really) and what we can expect from them as we bid for a place in the last 16. 

The club was founded in the industrial mining city of Saint-Etienne in 1919 by employees of local grocery chain Groupe Casino - hence they adopted their primary colour of green (or 'Le Verts').

Given the dominance of Lyon, and latterly mega-rich PSG, you'd be forgiven for thinking that Saint-Etienne feed off scraps when it comes to major honours in France.

Think again - they are actually the most successful club in the country with ten league titles (their last came in 1981), so this meeting pits the two most successful teams on both sides of the channel.

Saint-Etienne's European record is not as strong as our but they did reach a European final in 1976 where they lost narrowly 1-0 to Bayern Munich.

United have locked horns with 'Le Verts' just once before, in the first round of the 1977-78 European Cup.
The first leg ended 1-1 with the return match notable for the fact that - due to crowd trouble in France - UEFA forced United to play the 'home' leg at least 200 miles away from Old Trafford.

Plymouth's Home Park was chosen and goals from Stuart Pearson and Steve Coppell successfully sealed our passage through.

They've lost on all three of the previous visits to England but are unbeaten in ten ties this season and topped their group with a superb victory in Anderlecht on Matchday Six.

Christophe Gaultier (Europe's second longest serving boss after Arsene Wenger) has revived his side's fortunes since he took charge in 2009 - with a top six finish in Ligue 1 every season since 2013. 

Like United, expect to see Gaultier use a 4-3-3 system, with talented playmaker Henri Saivet pulling the strings from deep, flanked by captain Loic Perrin, top scorer and winger Romain Hamouma, and Florentin Pogba, elder brother of our very own Paul. 
Stephane Ruffier is an impressive and highly-rated presence between the sticks, while Swiss player Leo Lacroix and attacking right-back Kevin Macuit form half of a miserly and well organised defence. 

Saint-Etienne remain one of the best supported teams in France, with their fans bringing a noisy, passionate and colourful following to their side's matches both at home and abroad. 

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