Manchester United return to the UEFA Europa League they won in 2016/17 with a home fixture against Astana.
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Manchester United return to the UEFA Europa League that they won on their previous participation in 2016/17 with a home fixture against Astana, champions of Kazakhstan for each of the past five seasons and autumn participants in this competition for the fourth year running.
• This is United's first UEFA encounter against opposition from Kazakhstan and also Astana's first against a club from England.
• The three-time champions of Europe finished sixth in the 2018/19 Premier League, which meant direct access to the UEFA Europa League. They were quarter-finalists in last season's UEFA Champions League, going out to Barcelona after a remarkable round of 16 second-leg comeback against Paris Saint-Germain (0-2 h, 3-1 a).
• United have appeared in three previous UEFA Europa League campaigns, but this is only their second group stage start, the previous one three seasons ago having kicked off with a 0-1 defeat at Feyenoord but ended with a 2-0 win in the Stockholm final against the Dutch club's arch-rivals Ajax. The Manchester giants reached the round of 16 on their other two participations.
• Although the Red Devils are unbeaten in nine UEFA Europa League home games and have a perfect record in the group stage, they have lost four of their last six Old Trafford encounters in the UEFA Champions League (W1 D1), scoring only two goals.
• Astana collected their fifth straight domestic title in 2018 while also playing no fewer than 16 European matches in that calendar year, the last six in the UEFA Europa League group stage, where they finished third with eight points. This season they have again come through four summer qualifying ties, squeezing past BATE Borisov in the play-offs (3-0 h, 0-2 a).
• Astana's maiden UEFA Europa League group campaign in 2016/17 ended unsuccessfully with five points, but they doubled that number the following season to finish second in their section and qualify for a first ever crack at springtime European football. It lasted just two matches, Sporting CP overcoming them 6-4 on aggregate in the round of 32.
• A 4-0 win in Malta against Valletta in this season's UEFA Europa League third qualifying round is Astana's only European away win in their last ten such matches (D4 L5). In the group stage their record outside Kazakhstan is W3 D1 L5.
Links and trivia
• United midfielder Scott McTominay was a member of the Scotland side defeated 3-0 by Kazakhstan in Astana in the teams' opening UEFA EURO 2020 qualifier. Yevgeny Postnikov and Roman Murtazayev started for the home side, with Serikzhan Muzhikov coming on as a substitute.
• Astana's Croatian import Marin Tomasov scored seven goals in this season's UEFA Europa League qualifying phase – a total bettered only by Rangers' Alfredo Morelos (eight).
• A former Old Trafford favourite, whose legendary status at the club was confirmed with his added-time winner in the 1999 UEFA Champions League final against Bayern München, Ole Gunnar Solskjær returned to Manchester United as interim manager in December 2018, replacing José Mourinho, before securing the position on a permanent basis in March 2019. A former Norwegian international striker renowned for his predatory goalscoring, he won six Premier League titles as a United player and established his reputation as a coach in his homeland with Molde.
• A free-scoring Ukrainian striker, Roman Hryhorchuk has made his name as a coach in eastern Europe, starting out in Latvia, where he won three league titles and two domestic cups during a four-year spell with Ventspils. He went on to coach Chornomorets Odesa in his homeland and Azerbaijan side Gabala for similar periods, overseeing UEFA Europa League group stage campaigns for both, before replacing Stanimir Stoilov at Kazakh champions Astana in June 2018. He missed the latter weeks of the club's league title triumph for personal reasons but has been back in harness this year.