Manchester United fans were served with a dose of reality on Monday, when their side were paired with FC Midtjylland in the UEFA Europa League.
The Reds crashed out of the UEFA Champions League at the group stage when they lost 3-2 in Wolfsburg in the final round of fixtures, and their third-place finish was rewarded – or punished, some might say – with a place in European football’s second-tier competition. And Louis van Gaal’s side must now travel to Midtjylland in the last 32, a far cry from their usual glamour tie.
Of course for the Danish side this is a dream draw, but it is unlikely to be met with much excitement in Manchester. The Wolves, as they are nicknamed, were only formed in 1999 – just three months before United completed their famous treble – and their stadium holds just 11,800. They did, however, knock Southampton out of the competition during the qualifying stage.
Jurgen Klopp faces a quick return to Germany after his Liverpool side were drawn with Augsburg, who are currently just three point above the relegation zone in the Bundesliga. Tottenham Hotspur, meanwhile, have the chance to avenge Italians Fiorentina who knocked them out of the competition last season, and are currently second place in a competitive Serie A.
Gary Neville, who couldn’t steer Valencia to the knockout stages of the Champions League, will take his side to Austria for their tie with Rapid Vienna, whilst current Europa holders Sevilla – also victims of a third-place finish – take on Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s Molde. Other ties of note include Borussia Dortmund v Porto, Galatasaray v Lazio, Marseille v Athletic Bilbao, and Villarreal v Napoli.
Round of 32 draw (first legs on February 16/17/18 and return legs on February 25):
Valencia v Rapid Vienna
Fiorentina v Tottenham
Borussia Dortmund v Porto
Fenerbahce v Lokomotiv Moscow
Anderlecht v Olympiakos
Midtjylland v Manchester United
Augsburg v Liverpool
Sparta Prague v Krasnodar
Galatasaray v Lazio
Sion v Braga
Shakhtar Donetsk v Schalke 04
Marseille v Athletic Bilbao
Sevilla v Molde
Sporting Lisbon v Bayer Leverkusen
Villarreal v Napoli
Saint-Etienne v Basel