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United quest continues against Athletic

Manchester United FC and Sir Alex Ferguson are in search of a crucial missing piece of silverware as they meet Athletic Club for the first time in over 50 years in the round of 16.

One trophy is still missing from Sir Alex Ferguson's cabinet
One trophy is still missing from Sir Alex Ferguson's cabinet ©Getty Images

Manchester United FC's quest for an important piece of missing silverware continues as they take on Athletic Club for the first time in over 50 years in the UEFA Europa League round of 16.

Previous meetings
• The clubs' only previous meeting came over 50 years ago, in what was both sides' third competitive two-legged tie in UEFA competition. In the quarter-finals of the second European Champion Clubs' Cup, Ferdinand Daučík's Athletic beat Sir Matt Busby's United 5-3 in Bilbao, but lost the return fixture 3-0 at Maine Road, usually the home of Manchester City FC, where United were playing due to Second World War bomb damage to Old Trafford.

• The teams for that Manchester meeting on 6 February 1957 were:
United: Wood, Foulkes, Byrne, Colman, Jones, Edwards, Berry, Whelan, Taylor, Viollet, Pegg.
Athletic: Cedrun, Orue, Garay, Trapero, Ugartemendia, Maguregui, Arteche, Marcaida, Merodio, Uribe, Gainza.

Match background
• United's record in 41 games against Spanish opponents reads W11 D17 L13 (W8 D9 L2 in Manchester). That total includes a win and two defeats by FC Barcelona in major European finals held at neutral venues.

• Excluding their UEFA Champions League final losses to Barcelona (2-0 in 2009 and 3-1 in 2011) United's recent games against Spanish sides have been very low scoring: just four goals in their last eight non-final encounters.

• Athletic's 14 games against English sides ended W3 D4 L7 (W0 D1 L6 in England).

• United's only previous appearance in the last 16 in this competition came in the 1984/85 UEFA Cup, a tournament in which they lost out to Videoton FC of Hungary on penalties in the quarter-final.

• Should United win the UEFA Europa League they will be only the fourth side to have taken all three of UEFA's major club trophies, joining Juventus, AFC Ajax and FC Bayern München.

• The Bilbao side have reached the round of 16 for the first time since the advent of the UEFA Cup group stage, having lost out in the round of 32 to FK Austria Wien in 2004/05 and RSC Anderlecht at the same stage in 2009/10.

• They have not reached the quarter-finals since the 1976/77 season, when they went on to lose to Juventus on away goals in the two-legged final.

• A 2-1 loss to Ajax in the round of 32 decider ended United's 11-game unbeaten home run in Europe; they had secured seven wins and four draws since going down 1-0 against Beşiktaş JK in the 2009/10 UEFA Champions League group stage.

• Athletic have lost their last two away games in Europe.

Team facts
• United's 2-1 home loss against Ajax last time out was their first home defeat in the UEFA Cup or UEFA Europa League; they had drawn their two previous home games in the two tournaments under Sir Alex Ferguson.

• The next goal Athletic let in will be the 100th they have conceded in the UEFA Cup and UEFA Europa League; this will be their 80th game in the two competitions.

• Ryan Giggs and Paul Scholes are the only current United players to have represented the club on their last UEFA Cup campaign, featuring in 0-0 and 2-2 draws against SC Rotor Volgograd in 1992/93.

• Athletic defender Mikel San José spent three years on the books of United's north-west rivals Liverpool FC (2007-10) but never made a senior appearance for the club.

• United's Spanish goalkeeper David de Gea played in three games against Athletic for Club Atlético de Madrid; two wins and – most recently – a 2-0 home defeat.

• Athletic midfielder Ander Iturraspe turns 23 on the day of the game; he has yet to play in a UEFA game on his birthday.

• Sir Alex has now been United manager for 25 years, leading the club to their record 19th English title last season. Now 70, he won three Scottish titles and the 1982/83 UEFA Cup Winners' Cup with Aberdeen FC before coming to Old Trafford, where his haul includes 12 league crowns, a second UEFA Cup Winners' Cup and two UEFA Champions League triumphs.

• If United win the UEFA Europa League, he will be the third coach to have won all three of UEFA's major club competitions, after Giovanni Trapattoni and Udo Lattek.

• Athletic's coach is former Argentina defender Marcelo Bielsa, who briefly led Espanyol in Spain in 1998 before taking charge of Argentina (1998–2004) and Chile (2007–11). This is his first season as a player or coach in UEFA club competition.

Competition statistics
• An updated version of the UEFA Europa League Statistics Handbook is available here: