Manchester United’s Europa League campaign has reached the last-32 stage – and the quest to reach next season’s Champions League goes on.
The Red Devils topped Group L with 13 points from six games, losing just once to Astana after fielding a heavily rotated line-up, and their improved form of late will give them great hope they can now push forward on all fronts.
As always in the Europa League last-32, teams are unable to draw other sides from their domestic league or their group, while the best four teams dropping in from the Champions League will join group winners in the seeded pot.
Wolves’ position as runners-up in Group K and AZ Alkmaar also progressing through the same group as Man Utd leaves Ole Gunnar Solskjaer‘s men with 14 potential opponents to draw. They are APOEL, Bayer Leverkusen, CFR Cluj, Club Brugge, Copenhagen, Eintracht Frankfurt, Getafe, Ludogorets, Olympiacos, Rangers, Roma, Shakhtar Donetsk, Sporting CP and Wolfsburg.
A potential face off with Steven Gerrard’s Rangers screams out to the neutral straight away, but does Solskjaer really feel that confident in his squad to overcome that particular test? Rangers aside, there are a number of other tantalising prospects on offer, so, who will Man Utd want to avoid in the last-32 and which side would give them the best chance of advancing?
We’ve taken a look below…
What’s the best draw Man Utd could get in the Europa League last-32?
Best Europa League finish: Last-32 (current season)
Current domestic league position: 2nd in Liga I
Head-to-head: Man Utd wins: 1 Draws: 0 CFR Cluj wins: 1
Cluj are the lowest ranked team left in this season’s Europa League and are competing at this stage of the competition for the first time in their history.
That said, they did finish six and eight points clear of Lazio and Rennes respectively during the group stages, sitting just behind Celtic with 12 points from six games. Underestimate them at your own peril.
Cluj are experts at home but their only win on the road during the group was against nine-man Rennes – Manchester United are European heavyweights and if Solskjaer is to make a serious tilt at reaching the Champions League next season, this is the sort of opponent they should be putting away routinely. You would have to back them to get the job done at Old Trafford.
What’s the worst draw Man Utd could get in the Europa League last-32?
Best Europa League finish: Runners-up (1990/91 Uefa Cup era)
Current domestic league position: 5th in Serie A
Head-to-head: Man Utd wins: 4 Draws: 1 Roma wins: 1
Roma weren’t overly convincing during the group stages, taking nine points from six games, but they did only lose once and have become adept at grinding out results – a key trait when battling over two legs.
The Giallorossi are currently fifth in Serie A and under Paulo Fonseca, have become set-piece experts, scoring more goals (8) from this situation than any other team in the Italian top flight this season.
There’s no doubting Harry Maguire’s qualities in defence but as a whole, Man Utd struggle to defend set-pieces and have conceded the third-highest number of goals (6) in the Premier League from dead-ball situations this season.
And it’s also worth mentioning that Roma striker Edin Dzeko has seven goals in just four career appearances against the Red Devils – his third-highest haul against an individual club. How the veteran striker, who represented Man City with distinction, would love to score against his old rivals.