Manchester United’s Europa League group stage verdict: Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s men should steamroller their weak opponents despite being handed tricky long-haul away trips
- Manchester United will expect to breeze through the Europa League group stage
- Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s men were drawn against Astana, Partizan and AZ Alkmaar
- But one downside to their draw is the amount of travelling they will have to do
Manchester United will be thanking their lucky stars after being handed a straightforward Europa League group.
Although they will have to contend with travelling close to 10,000 miles as Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s men were pitted against Astana, Partizan, AZ Alkmaar in Group L.
United should coast through this group easy enough, but may curse some of those long journeys to come. Here, Sportsmail assess how the draw went for them…
Manchester United were drawn into Group L of the 2019-2020 Europa League group stage
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer will be happy with the draw despite some long trips to contend with
Thursday September 19 – Manchester United v Astana – 8pm
Thursday October 3 – AZ Alkmaar v Manchester United – 5:55pm
Thursday October 24 – Partizan Belgrade v Manchester United – 5:55pm
Thursday November 7 – Manchester United vs Partizan Belgrade – 8pm
Thursday November 28 – Astana v Manchester United – 3:50pm
Thursday December 12 – Manchester United vs AZ Alkmaar – 8pm
GROUP L OPPONENTS
The Kazakhstan champions were one of the weakest sides in pot 2 so United will be delighted to have seen them pulled out by Paulo Ferreira on Friday.
Astana will however come into the competition with a fully match-fit squad as they are already 23 games into their domestic season. United could have also done without having to do the 6,000-mile round trip to Kazakhstan midweek.
The winger has already banged in seven goals in six qualifying games.
Qualified for the Champions League 2015-16 season but finished bottom of the group. Their best achievement in Europe is getting through to the first knockout rounds of the Europa League in 2017-18 before being beaten by Sporting Lisbon.
They will fancy their chances of qualifying as second best to Untied.
Astana’s main man Marin Tomasov has already scored seven goals in six qualifying games
United won’t be looking forward to the 2985-mile trip to Kazakhstan to face Astana though
Partizan will not pose too much of a threat to United, though Solskjaer’s men will certainly not be looking forward to the away tie. The Serbians are known to create one of the most intimidating atmospheres in world football and it will be up to United to cope with that.
They knocked out Solskjaer’s former side Molde in the qualifying round so the Norwegian will be keen to avenge that by taking six points off them in the groups.
The winger used to play for United but never quite made the cut and will want to make a statement against his former side.
They were runners up to Real Madrid in the 1965-66 UEFA Cup final but in recent times have rarely ventured out of the groups.
How they fare at home will be key to their chances, though on paper they look slim.
Partizan sealed their spot in the Europa League after knocking out Solskjaer’s old club Molde
The Dutch side were one of the strongest in pot 4 and like United will be satisfied with how Friday’s draw panned out.
AZ are a decent side and can take some confidence from the fact United have lost their last visits to Holland – against PSV and Feyernoord.
The 20-year-old forward has scored three goals in six Europa League qualifying games this season and is already attracting plenty of attention.
AZ have not got a rich history in European competitions, making just two appearances in the Champions League and 14 in the Europa League.
The Dutch side possess a good mixture of old heads and young upstarts and should qualify in second.
Manchester United will travel 9,238 miles
Calvin Stengs is AZ Alkmaar’s star man and will be out to thwart Manchester United
Where will United finish in their group?
This group will give Solskjaer the opportunity to blood some youngsters and still comfortably book their spot in the knockout rounds. They should walk this group and really need to be looking to take maximum points, or failing that go the six games unbeaten.