Snap shot: United's European home game ... in Plymouth

As Manchester United prepare to take on St-Étienne, we recall their only previous home meeting with Les Verts in the unlikely surrounds of Plymouth Argyle's Home Park.

Stuart Pearson (right) is congratulated after scoring the opening goal
Stuart Pearson (right) is congratulated after scoring the opening goal ©Getty Images

Crowd disturbances marred Manchester United's 1-1 first-leg draw away to St-Étienne in the European Cup Winners' Cup first round in 1977/78. The punishment? They could not play their home leg within 300km of Old Trafford. With options limited, officials decided upon Plymouth, a city on England's south-west coast most famous as the point of origin for the Mayflower voyage that took the Pilgrim Fathers to America.

Home Park was packed to the rafters, with 31,600 squeezing themselves in, and goals from Stuart Pearson and Steve Coppell gave United a 2-0 win on the night against a St-Étienne team that had reached the European Cup final the year before. United's European campaign didn't last long, though: they lost 6-5 on aggregate to Porto in the next round.

1. Stuart Pearson
Pearson swapped one second-tier side for another in 1974: Hull City for newly relegated Manchester United. A haul of 17 league goals in his first term ensured the Red Devils were not in the wilderness for long. His distinctive celebration – a raised right fist – was showcased over five seasons at United, with FA Cup glory in 1977 the major highlight. He also lifted the trophy with West Ham in 1980 before a knee injury hastened his retirement at the age of 32. A scorer of five goals in 15 appearances for England, Pearson went into coaching before becoming a matchday host at Old Trafford.

Pearson, Hill and manager Tommy Docherty in 1977
Pearson, Hill and manager Tommy Docherty in 1977©Getty Images

2. Gordon Hill
A winger whose quick feet and imagination elicited the nickname 'Merlin'. He had just spent the summer at Chicago Sting when newly promoted United came calling and his invention and goals return (39 in 101 games) meant he quickly became a crowd favourite – consternation greeted news of his sale to Derby in 1978. Capped six times by England, Hill went on to play in Canada, the United States, Finland and the Netherlands. He now runs a football academy in Florida.

3. Gérard Janvion
A forward when he arrived at St-Étienne in 1972, but coach Robert Herbin saw his potential elsewhere and switched him to full-back – an inspired move. Janvion became the cornerstone of a successful team that landed four league titles and three French Cups, missing out to Bayern in the 1976 European Cup final. Tenacious in the tackle, he picked up 40 France caps and ended his career with stints at Paris Saint-Germain and Béziers. He retired in 1987, returning to coach in his native Martinique, where he still lives.

United host St-Étienne at Old Trafford on Thursday, with kick-off at 21:05CET.

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