MANCHESTER United travel to Ukraine for their final UEFA Europa League group match against Zorya Luhansk this evening.
We take a look at what Jose Mourinho’s team will have to do to qualify for the knock-out stages and ideally win the group.
Current State of Play
The Red Devils will have been hoping to have secured passage to the knock-out stages of the UEFA Europa League before this 2,000 mile trip south-east but two unconvincing performances on their travels have meant their hopes of European football post-Christmas are still hanging in the balance.
Currently United sit in second place in the Europa League Group A standings with nine points. They won all three of their matches at Old Trafford but suffered narrow defeats in both Fenerbache and Feyenoord which means their fate in the competition is uncertain ahead of the final round of group games.
Zorya will be bowing out of the tournament at the group stage having not won in their five matches thus far. They are undefeated on ‘home’ soil in the tournament however, drawing both of their games in Ukraine, in spite of having to play European games in Odessa, 800km away from their traditional home ground of the Slavutych Arena which isn’t deemed fit for European competition.
How will the Reds qualify?
The equation is quite simple for United, just a point in the Chornomorets Stadium will be enough to guarantee a spot in the last 32 of Europe’s second premier club competition.
A defeat would also be enough for the Reds to progress as a group runner-up should Fenerbache avoid defeat in Feyenoord but Jose Mourinho’s side will not want to leave their chances of progression down to chance.
— Manchester United (@ManUtd) December 8, 2016
What about winning the group?
Ensuring a first-place finish could be crucial for United. It would mean they’d be a seeded side for the last 32 draw ensuring avoidance of some of the most dangerous sides left in the competition such as 2008 winners Zenit Saint Petersburg, 2009 champions Shakhtar Donetsk and Turkish League holders Besiktas.
Winning the group would also mean Jose Mourinho’s side would gain home advantage in the second leg of their last-32 tie which could be all important given the Reds have won all three of their European games at Old Trafford thus far this campaign with an aggregate score of 9-1.
Are there other English clubs in the competition?
Yes, like United, Southampton will be seeking to book their spot in the knock-out stages of the Europa League tonight. A goalless draw or a victory at home to Israeli outfit Hapoel Be’er Sheva at Saint Mary’s will book their spot in the last 32.
Tottenham Hotspur will also be playing Europa League football come the New Year. Mauricio Pochettino’s side have dropped into the tournament after finishing third in their Champions League group behind Bayer Leverkusen and Monaco. Spurs have confirmed they’ll be playing all of their European games at Wembley this season so there is a chance for United to play at the National Stadium later in the competition.
Due to UEFA’s rules on teams from the same association being unable to be paired against each other in the first knock-out round United couldn’t face Tottenham or the Saints in the last 32, should they secure qualification tonight.
Stay with Quays News for reaction to United’s match in Zorya later tonight.