Archive of Europa League football trips from Abroad Red, featuring 11 trips since 2016.
Europe’s second-tier club competition, one we’ve dropped in and out of in recent years, became the final trophy for United to win, completing the full set with victory in the 2017 Europa League final. Though it doesn’t feature the high profile teams and cities of the Champions League, there are often more exciting trips to unfamiliar countries in Europe.
Find out more about travelling to Europa League games.
Given almost the entire 2020/21 season was played without fans in the grounds we’ll be forgiven for not being able to recall it well in years to come. The final home fixtures of the Premier League season were the first to be open to supporters, however missing out on one of just 10,000 tickets in the ballot meant the match against Villarreal was my first United game since March 2020. Despite being a European final it was somewhat subdued by continued Covid-restrictions and a 25% capacity crowd, the above shot being the moment prior to kick-off. Defeat on penalties completed an anti-climatic season and also robbed us of the exciting prospect of a Super Cup final in Belfast in August.
What a strange old season. 8th March 2020 was the last time I properly stepped foot inside Old Trafford, well over 14 months ago; the last European trip, to Bruges, was a few weeks prior to that. Whilst I’ve dipped into non-league football at West Didsbury and Chorlton, I’ve had to make do with watching United on tele for more than a full season, almost to the point that it’s lost meaning.
Writing this in August, the start of the 2019/20 season feels an age away, with the pre-season trips to Cardiff & Oslo now over a year ago. The first competitive fixture against Chelsea in the league was August 11th – 370 days ago from the final games of the 2019/20 season against Sevilla.
A fairly convincing group stage saw United finish top, avoiding the difficulty of facing one of the seeded teams, Europa League group winners or stronger Champions League drop outs. Of 14 possible opponents there was a real mix of locations, with Germany the only country represented more than once with 3 teams. There were familiar foes in the form of Olympiacos, Shakhtar Donetsk and Cluj, as well as new potential trips to APOEL of Cyprus, Ludogorets of Bulgaria and Getafe of Spain.
The Europa League, for all it’s drawbacks, does guarantee trips to the more obscure parts of Europe, and the 2019/20 group stage draw didn’t disappoint. Sandwiched between a trip to Alkmaar, north of Amsterdam, and a 3,000 mile trek to Astana in Kazakstan, was a meaningful return to Belgrade.
The 2018/19 season was pretty forgettable for United and left us facing another season in the Europa League. Thankfully, with Watford losing the FA Cup Final to City, we avoided entering the competition at the second qualifying round at the end of July(!) Instead it’s straight into the group stages with a much kinder mid-September start, and three less ties to navigate.
After last year’s efforts the 2016/17 European season felt like it had a lot more to offer, even if was to be spent solely in the Europa League. Despite remaining the only competition United had never won, the early prognosis was that it was the least important trophy up for grabs in Mourinho’s first season, with the league an obvious priority and other cup wins simply a bonus.
So we made it. It was a tense final 10 minutes in the semi final 2nd leg against Celta Vigo with all kinds of drama, but a (familiar) 1-1 draw saw us through to the final in Stockholm. For months now our season has become more and more centred around progression in the Europa League as means to qualify for the Champions League. The final would be our 15th game in this year’s tournament with just AFC Ajax standing in the way of a return to the heights of European football.
The last time United lost at home in Europe was under Fergie against Madrid 4 years ago, and we’ve won all 5 matches at Old Trafford this season. After a late goal away at Anderlecht there was a lot to do to make it through to the semi-finals; the return leg treated us to yet another draw before a relieving late winner in extra time from Rashford. It’s not been an entirely convincing Europa League run but we’re just two games away from the final now with our next opponents Celta Vigo.
The Europa League has provided a real mixed bag of trips for United this season, with the competition’s practice of squeezing in an extra knock-out round adding further complexities. It meant that the game in Rostov was one too many for me, coming just 13 days after the draw – which itself was 12 hours after we’d got home from Saint-Etienne! Thankfully United negotiated another tricky visit to Russia (the club even paying for fans visas) and made it through to quarter finals to face Anderlecht of Belgium, a team prominent in our history.