The Spanish team, trailing Lokomotiv Moscow 2-1 after last week's first leg in Russia, registered a 1-0 home win to advance on the away goals rule. The result was far from straightforward, though, and was made considerably more difficult in the 60th minute when Fernando Amorebieta received his marching orders for a second bookable offence with the score at 0-0.
Two minutes later, however, Iker Muniain netted at the back post to level the aggregate scores and put Bilbao in pole position on away goals. Lokomotiv rallied and perhaps should have snatched a tie-winning goal when former West Ham striker Manuel Da Costa sliced horribly wide in injury time.
United will host Bilbao at Old Trafford on Thursday 8 March before travelling to Spain for the second leg a week later. It's only the second time the sides have been drawn together in European competition - the previous meeting, 55 years ago, yielded what was described by one journalist, Henry Rose, as the 'greatest soccer victory in history.'
In January 1957, the Reds lost 5-3 away in Spain but a few weeks later, Matt Busby's Babes bounced back in the second leg to win 3-0 under the floodlights at Manchester City's Maine Road ground and go through 6-5 on aggregate.