Tuesday 27 September 2016

Jose Mourinho expects competitive ties for Manchester United in Europa League

Published 26/08/2016 | 13:06

Manchester United manager Jose Mourinho must take his side to Ukrainian unknowns Zorya Luhansk
Manchester United manager Jose Mourinho must take his side to Ukrainian unknowns Zorya Luhansk

Manchester United manager Jose Mourinho intends to treat the Europa League with the respect it deserves.

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The Red Devils were handed a trip into the unknown after being drawn against Ukrainian side Zorya Luhansk in the Europa League.

However, they will also come up against familiar faces at Fenerbahce, who have former United striker Robin van Persie and ex-Liverpool defender Martin Skrtel in their ranks, while Dutch opponents Feyenoord also have former Liverpool men in forward Dirk Kuyt and goalkeeper Brad Jones.

"There are groups in the Champions League that are very similar, so it is good for that," Mourinho told a press conference.

"We all know the competition is not the same as the Champions League but to have Manchester United playing against clubs with tradition like Fenerbahce and Feyenoord is good for us.

"I don't have more vision about Ukraine. We know that it will be a difficult group, but I think that is a good thing.

"If you have teams without expression then even the fans may not enjoy Thursday nights at Old Trafford.

"It is good for the fans and for the players because it will help motivation."

Mourinho has at least been able to avoid a lengthy trip between Premier League encounters against Liverpool and Chelsea away.

United - who have the potentially-tricky trip to Ukraine as their last fixture on December 8 - will be at home to Fenerbahce on October 20, the Thursday in between those two fixtures against their domestic rivals.

Europa League debutants Zorya - who reached the play-offs in the last two years but failed to progress - are based in the east of the country close to the border with Russia.

However, because of the war in that part of the country Zorya play their domestic home matches at the Slavutych Arena in Zaporizhia and last summer European fixtures were held in Kiev.

Southampton have a glamour tie against Inter Milan and have also been drawn against Sparta Prague and Israel's Hapoel Be'er Sheva, who gave Celtic a scare in their Champions League qualifier.

League of Ireland side Dundalk also have to go to Israel to face Maccabi Tel Aviv, with Zenit St Petersburg and AZ Alkmaar their other opponents.

Southampton's executive director of football Les Reed said they were relishing matches against some of Europe's historic clubs.

"It's a very exciting draw for everyone involved at the football club," he told saintsfc.co.uk.

"There are some big challenges for us, with a big giant in Inter Milan.

"I'm sure everyone will look forward to that home and away, but the other games will also be great tests for us with excellent atmospheres."

Press Association

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