The longest European campaign in Austrian club LASK's history continues with a mouth-watering home fixture against Manchester United.
The longest European campaign in Austrian club LASK's history continues with a mouth-watering home fixture against Manchester United in the first leg of the UEFA Europa League round of 16.
• LASK were impressive UEFA Europa League group stage debutants in the autumn, topping Group D to secure post-Christmas European football for the first time, before extending their campaign still further by overcoming AZ Alkmaar 3-1 on aggregate in the round of 32 (1-1 a, 2-0 h), with striker Marko Raguz scoring all three of their goals.
• United finished on top of UEFA Europa League Group L, four points clear of AZ, to reach the round of 32, where they overwhelmed Belgian league leaders Club Brugge 6-1 over the two legs (1-1 a, 5-0 h) to book a fourth appearance in the competition's round of 16.
• LASK have never previously faced an English club in UEFA competition.
• United are undefeated in their eight previous matches against Austrian clubs (W7 D1) and have yet to concede a goal on Austrian soil, where they have scored seven times themselves, the most recent visit yielding a 2-0 win against Sturm Graz in the second group stage of the 2000/01 UEFA Champions League.
• Runners-up to Salzburg in the Austrian Bundesliga last season, LASK also took part in UEFA competition for the first time since 2000 but were eliminated on away goals by Beşiktaş in the UEFA Europa League third qualifying round.
• LASK began this season's European journey in the UEFA Champions League third qualifying round, where they beat Basel (2-1 a, 3-1 h) before losing to Club Brugge (0-1 h, 1-2 a). That meant a first ever participation in the UEFA Europa League group stage, where they thrived, winning all three home games, registering 13 points and topping a group containing three European stalwarts in Sporting CP, PSV Eindhoven and Rosenborg.
• This is LASK's first taste of springtime European football. Their previous best seasons in continental competition were 1984/85 and 1985/86, when they reached the second round of the UEFA Cup.
• LASK have won seven of their eight European home games over the past two seasons, scoring 19 goals in the process, the sole defeat coming in that UEFA Champions League play-off tie against Club Brugge.
• 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 (0-1 h, 0-3 a) after a remarkable round of 16 second-leg comeback against Paris Saint-Germain (0-2 h, 3-1 a).
• United kept clean sheets in their first four UEFA Europa League group fixtures this term, securing qualification with two games to spare after doing the double over Partizan (1-0 a, 3-0 h). Although they lost 2-1 at Astana, ending the club's 15-match unbeaten run in the competition, United signed off in style with a 4-0 home win against AZ that secured top spot in Group L. At the time that was the club's joint biggest victory in the UEFA Cup/UEFA Europa League, but they trumped that in the round of 32 second leg with their 5-0 defeat of Club Brugge.
• The Manchester giants have appeared in the UEFA Europa League round of 16 three times previously but have only won one of those ties, against Rostov (1-1 a, 1-0 h) in 2016/17 en route to lifting the trophy. The two defeats came before that, against Athletic Club (2-3 h, 1-2 a) in 2011/12 and domestic arch rivals Liverpool (0-2 a, 1-1 h) in 2015/16.
• The Red Devils' away record in 15 UEFA Europa League fixtures is W5 D4 L6, the loss at Astana ending a seven-game undefeated run on their travels (W4 D3). Since that memorable win in Paris last spring United's European away record is W1 D2 L2, with just three goals scored in those five games.
Links and trivia
• Manchester United's January signing Bruno Fernandes scored the winning goal for Sporting in their 2-1 victory against LASK on Matchday 2. The Portuguese international is the joint leading scorer in this season's UEFA Europa League, group stage to final, with six goals, including one for United, a penalty, that opened the scoring in the 5-0 win against Club Brugge.
• LASK's French coach Valérien Ismaël played in England from January to October 1998 with Crystal Palace, having joined the London club from Strasbourg for a record fee.
• James Holland (LASK) and Sergio Romero (Manchester United) were at AZ together in 2009/10, though the former played no competitive matches for the club.
• LASK were one of six clubs to make their UEFA Europa League group stage debut in 2019/20, and are one of just two, along with Wolverhampton Wanderers, to have made it through to the round of 16.
• Manchester United are one of two former UEFA Europa League winners in this season's round of 16, along with three-time champions Sevilla.
• LASK defeated Mattersburg 1-0 away last weekend to remain six points clear of defending champions Salzburg at the top of the Austrian Bundesliga, while United beat Manchester City 2-0 at Old Trafford to complete a Premier League double against their local rivals and stretch their unbeaten run in all competitions to ten matches (W7 D3).
• A former central defender who started out with home-town club Strasbourg, Ismaël spent the latter part of his career in Germany, winning the domestic double with both Werder Bremen and Bayern München. His final club, Hannover, gave the Frenchman his first coaching opportunity in charge of the reserves, and he occupied a similar role at Wolfsburg, which was punctuated by a brief spell as head coach at Nürnberg. After another short stint as the main man at Wolfsburg, from October 2016 to February 2017, he resurfaced in Austria as the new boss of LASK in May 2019.
• 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, Ole Gunnar Solskjær returned to Manchester United as interim manager in December 2018, replacing José Mourinho, before securing the position on a permanent basis the following March. 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.