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Europa League

Europa League

Manchester United's UEFA Europa League triumph in 2016/17 was significant for a number of reasons. Not only did it secure Champions League football at the end of the second-longest season in the club's history, it also meant the Reds had completed the set of major honours available to European clubs.

Perhaps most importantly, however, the 2-0 victory over Ajax at the Friends Arena in Stockholm, Sweden came just two days after Manchester had been hit by a devastating tragedy - a terror attack following a concert at the city's famous Arena.

United narrowly missed out on the final during the club's first involvement in the competition in 1964/65, when it was known as the Inter-City Fairs Cup. Matt Busby's men made light work of Swedish side Djurgardens and German giants Borussia Dortmund, scoring 17 goals across the pair of two-legged ties, before seeing off Everton on aggregate in the third round. Following a comprehensive victory over Strasbourg in the quarter-final, the Reds faced Hungarian outfit Ferencvaros in the last four. With nothing to separate the sides after two legs, the teams met again for an all-or-nothing play-off at the Nep Stadium in Hungary, where the hosts eventually ran out 2-1 winners.

The Reds would struggle in the competition – which was renamed the UEFA Cup – at the next three attempts, falling at the second-round stage to Juventus in 1976/77 and the first hurdle in 1980/81 and 1982/83, to Lodz and Valencia respectively. Two years later, though, under the guidance of Ron Atkinson, United reached the quarter-finals during a memorable campaign. Following wins over Raba Vasas and PSV Eindhoven in the early rounds, the highlight was a rollercoaster third-round clash with Dundee, which Big Ron's men eventually won 5-4 over two legs. Next up were Videoton of Hungary and, after Frank Stapleton's goal had given us a first-leg lead, the same scoreline in the return fixture saw the game go to penalties. The Reds eventually lost the shootout, but did go on to win the FA Cup.  

United had to wait until the 1992/93 season for another crack at the competition, but exited at the first round following a surprise defeat to Torpedo Moscow on penalties. And it was a similar story three years later, when the Reds were paired with Rotor Volgograd. It was the first time since the Heysel Disaster that England had four representatives in the tournament but, with the away goals rule now in place, United bowed out following a stalemate in Russia and 2-2 draw at Old Trafford. 

Our continued involvement in the UEFA Champions League thereafter meant it wasn't until 2011/12 that United entered the competition again. Having finished third in Group C behind Benfica and Basel, the Reds dropped into the (recently renamed) Europa League for the Round of 32 and would face Ajax, who had suffered the same fate in Group D. Goals from Ashley Young and Javier Hernandez did the damage in Amsterdam, and proved decisive as the Dutch side won 2-1 at Old Trafford in the reverse fixture. The result set up a meeting with Ander Herrera and Athletic Club who, despite three goals from Wayne Rooney over two legs, knocked the Reds out with a 5-3 aggregate victory.

During the 2015/16 season, with Louis van Gaal at the helm, United again entered the Europa League as one of the best third-placed finishers from the Champions League group stages. It meant the Reds were seeded for the Round of 32 draw, during which we were partnered with Danish side Midtjylland. Despite a shock first-leg defeat, what followed was a memorable moment for one of the club's Academy stars, as Marcus Rashford burst onto the scene with two goals on his senior debut, helping United to a 5-1 win at Old Trafford. Premier League rivals Liverpool awaited in the last 16, which would prove a bridge too far for van Gaal's men. The Reds had it all to do following a 2-0 defeat on Merseyside, and couldn't overcome the deficit during the home leg.

United entered the competition for just the 10th time at the start of the 2016/17 campaign, having finished fifth in the Premier League under van Gaal the year before. After progressing from Group A in second place - behind Fenerbahce and ahead of Feyenoord and Zorya Luhansk - the Reds faced Saint-Etienne in the Round of 32, winning 4-0 on aggregate over two legs, largely thanks to a hat-trick from Zlatan Ibrahimovic at Old Trafford. It was a closer affair in the next round, as Mourinho's men took on Russian side FC Rostov in testing conditions, coming away with a 1-0 win, a result that was repeated in Manchester. 

At the quarter-final stage, the Reds drew 1-1 with Anderlecht in Brussels before securing a 2-1 win at home, a game overshadowed by injuries to defender Marcos Rojo and top scorer Ibrahimovic. The result set up a semi-final meeting with Celta Vigo, and United advanced to the final as Rashford's free-kick secured a 1-0 away win, before an eventful 1-1 draw in the second leg.

Paul Pogba and Henrikh Mkhitaryan - who made club history by netting in five away or neutral European games in one season - were on the scoresheet in the 2017 UEFA Europa League final as the Reds claimed a significant victory for both the club and the city of Manchester.