Manchester United’s bid to win the Europa League begins in the Netherlands on Thursday when they travel to Ajax Amsterdam.
Last season’s Champions League finalists failed to make it out of Group C after an embarrassing 2-1 loss at FC Basel of Switzerland on the final match-day.
Ajax were unlucky to miss out on the group stage themselves as Lyon’s freak 7-1 win against Dinamo Zagreb tipped them out of Europe’s top-tier competition on goal difference.
This match-up pits two of Europe’s most famous football clubs together, with Ajax having won four Champions League titles and one UEFA Cup in their illustrious history.
Manchester United have three Champions League titles in their trophy cabinet but they have never won Europe’s second-tier competition before.
Manchester United – who sit second on the English Premier League table – are joined by cross-town rivals Manchester City in the competition after they failed to make it through a group containing Bayern Munich, Napoli and Villarreal.
City kick off their campaign with a tricky away leg at Liga Sagres outfit Porto, who won the Europa League last year and are unbeaten in their last seven home games in Europe.
Atletico Madrid, the 2010 Europa League champions, are away at Serie A outfit Lazio, while 2011 finalists Braga welcome Turkish side Besiktas.
Eredivisie table-toppers AZ Alkmaar play host to Belgians Anderlecht while another Dutch side, FC Twente, are on the road to Romania to play Steaua Bucharest.
Udinese have performed well this season in the Serie A and will fancy their chances against PAOK Salonika of Greece and Premier League side Stoke City face the biggest test of their continental season when they host La Liga giants Valencia.
Wisla Krakow’s last minute draw at Fulham was enough to book them progression into the round of 32 and they are at home to Standard Liege, while their Polish counterparts Legia Warsaw welcome Sporting Lisbon of Portugal.
German side Schalke qualified for the Champions League semi-finals last season and will feel confident of progressing against Czech outfit Viktoria Plzen, while PSV Eindhoven tackle Trabzonspor of Turkey.
Austrian side Red Bull Salzburg are at home to Ukraine’s Metalist Kharkiv, Rubin Kazan of Russia play Greek side Olympiakos, Rubin’s compatriots Lokomotiv Moscow host Athletic Bilbao and Bundesliga side Hannover welcome Belgians Club Brugge.
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