After the shock of being soon ousted by RB Leipzig in the Champions League, MU was pushed down to attend the round of 1/16 Europa League.
While both Man City, Liverpool and Chelsea soon won the right to continue, MU was the only English team that soon stopped coming from the Champions League group stage this year. “The Red Devils” hold their own when they only need to draw RB Leipzig in the last match of Group H, they will win tickets to the eighth round of the oldest continent’s tournament.
However, the 2-3 defeat in Germany on December 9 made Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s teachers and students pity to play in the round of 1/16 Europa League. MU will join 7 other teams ranked third in the group stage of the Champions League to play in the second tier of the European Cup this season. They are Red Bull Salzburg, Shakhtar Donetsk, Olympiacos, Ajax Amsterdam, Krasnodar, Club Brugge and Dynamo Kyiv.
According to the division results of the European Football Federation (UEFA), 16 seeds of the 16th round of the Europa League this season will include 12 top-ranked teams in the group stage and four other teams falling from the Champions League (MU , Club Brugge, Shakhtar Donetsk and Ajax). These teams will be able to play the second leg at home.
The rules of the draw for the 16th round of the Europa League also specify that in the upcoming round, teams from the same seed group or the same country or the same group will not encounter each other.
Thus, MU will be able to encounter one of the non-seeded and non-English teams, including Young Boys, Molde, Slavia Prague, Benfica, Granada, Real Sociedad, Braga, Lille, Maccabi Tel Aviv, Antwerp , Wolfsberger AC, Red Star Belgrade, Krasnodar, Red Bull Salzburg, Dynamo Kyiv and Olympiacos.
Of these, Real Sociedad is the most formidable opponent with MU. The Basque team has been unbeaten for 9 consecutive matches in all competitions and is ranked second in the La Liga table, just 1 point behind the leading Atletico Madrid team.
Sociedad’s squad currently has many famous stars who have played for major Premier League clubs such as former Man City midfielder David Villa, former Arsenal defender Nacho Monreal or MU Adnan Januzaj.
Former Real Madrid midfielder Asier Illarramendi or Dortmund striker Alexander Isak is also notable names that the army of coach Imanol Alguacil owns. In addition to Real Sociedad, other potential rivals such as Lille, Benfica, Granada or Red Bull Salzburg can still make it difficult for MU if they encounter each other in the upcoming knockout round.
As planned, the draw ceremony round 1/16 of the Europa League this season will be held by UEFA at 19:00 Monday (December 14) in the city of Nyon (Switzerland). The first leg and the return leg will take place on February 18 and February 25, 2021 respectively.