Last season, Manchester United struggled under the watchful eye of Louis van Gaal. Come May, that culminated in the Red Devils narrowly missing out on Champions League football, and dumped into the Europa League – a tournament that has often come in for heavy criticism in England.
Things have changed now, and UEFA have clearly been working on ways to improve the continent’s secondary trophy, and now the winners are awarded with a spot in the Champions League; Giving clubs that extra incentive to try and go all the way.
The Europa League has now kicked off proper, and today the group stage draws were made. Manchester United went in as a top seed despite their poor performances in Europe over the last few seasons, and they’ve been dealt a potentially tricky set of opponents.
First up sees a return for an Old Trafford hero in the form of Robin van Persie. His Fenerbahce side came up short in the hunt for a Super Lig title last season, but did enough to qualify for Europe.
The Turkish giants will pose a tough threat for Jose Mourinho’s Manchester United – particularly away from home as their passionate fanbase will make it a hostile atmosphere for the likes of Zlatan Ibrahimovic and co.
Feberbahce have some decent players available at their disposal too. The aforementioned Van Persie will be a real goal threat, and stars like Gregory van der Wiel, and former Liverpool man Martin Skrtel will be doing all they can to stop United at the other end.
Feyenoord were the third team placed in Group A, with the Dutch side often having to settle for the runner-up spot in the Eredivisie, behind both Ajax and PSV Eindhoven. They certainly pose a threat, though, and former Liverpool man Dirk Kuyt will spearhead their potent attacking force.
Again, United should have more than enough to beat Feyenoord at Old Trafford, but they may come unstuck when the sides meet in Holland.
The final side to join Group A is Ukrainian side, Zorya Luhansk. A club that’ll be unfamiliar to large portions of Manchester United fans. This is a team that Mourinho will be hoping to beat in both legs, whilst giving some of the fringe players a chance to impress and earn their spots in the side for the Premier League.
As you’d imagine, Manchester United fans took to Twitter to express their opinions on what could well be a tricky group. It’s certainly one you’d expect them to qualify from, but you wouldn’t be wholly surprised to see a couple of results that don’t go their way.
Some fans didn’t really care for the draw at all:
Whilst others were getting slightly ahead of themselves:
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