United's five longest away trips in Europe
Manchester United take on Omonia Nicosia in the Europa League on Thursday, with the game set to played at the GSP Stadium in the Cypriot capital.
Our journey to the Mediterranean island entails a travel distance of over 4,000 miles, with Nicosia being the south-easternmost capital city in Europe.
In terms of latitude, it’s actually located further south than the African cities of Tunis and Algiers and our research indicates that only one European away in our history was further from home.
Here are the five most distant cities United have visited so far in our storied European history…
90 in 20: Astana 2 United 1
Watch the extended highlights of United's Europa League match against Astana on Thursday...
1. ASTANA, KAZAKHSTAN (2019)
Total distance travelled: 5,990 miles*
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s side had already secured qualification to the Europa League knockout stages when we made the six-hour trip to Kazakhstan’s capital Astana – then named Nur-Sultan – in November 2019. Kazakhstan is a country largely located in Central Asia, with their football federation only admitted to UEFA in 2002, and the winter weather greeting the travelling Reds was an eye-opener, with temperatures plummeting to minus 20 degrees Celsius during our time there. Ole Gunnar Solskjaer opted to hand debuts to six Academy players for a game that kicked off at 15:50 GMT in the UK, owing to the significant time difference. The home side ran out 2-1 winners, despite Jesse Lingard’s opener, but it’s thought around 950 United fans were present at the game – that’s some effort!
2. NICOSIA, CYPRUS (2002)
Total distance travelled: 4,278 miles
Our Champions League group match against Maccabi Haifa in October 2002 also took place in the Cypriot capital, after UEFA banned Israel from hosting fixtures due to rising tensions in the Middle East. With qualification already secured, Sir Alex Ferguson opted to shuffle his pack, leaving the likes of Fabien Barthez, Ryan Giggs, David Beckham and Ruud van Nistelrooy out of his line-up to face the Greens at GSP Stadium. Goals from Yaniv Katan, Raimondas Zutauttas and Yakubu Aiyegbeni secured a surprise win for the Israelis and ended our unbeaten run in the Champions League proper at 16 matches, although victory over Bayer Leverkusen at Old Trafford a fortnight later would ultimately secure our position as group winners. We’ll be back in Nicosia later this week…
3. VOLGOGRAD, RUSSIA (1995)
Total distance travelled: 4,036 miles
United’s 1995/96 UEFA Cup tie against Rotor Volgograd is most fondly remembered for Peter Schmeichel’s injury-time equaliser in the second leg at Old Trafford, which kept our proud unbeaten record at home in Europe intact. Unfortunately, the Great Dane’s header to tie the scores at 2-2 wasn’t enough to secure qualification for the Reds – we exited the competition on away goals, with our goalless draw at the Central Stadion in Volgograd two weeks earlier proving fateful. Around 140 Reds made the trip to the city formerly known as Stalingrad.
4. ROSTOV-ON-DON, RUSSIA (2017)
Total distance travelled: 3,762 miles
The Reds had already negotiated a taxing trip to Odessa in Ukraine to see off Zorya Luhansk in the group stages of the Europa League in 2016. Goals from Henrikh Mkhitaryan and Zlatan Ibrahimovic ensured progress to the knockout stages on a frozen pitch in sub-zero temperatures and, after defeating St Etienne in the next round, Russia’s Rostov – who play in a city longitudinally further east than Mecca and Damascus – were drawn out of the hat for the last 16. On another challenging surface, at the Olymp-2 Stadium, with 238 fervent Reds fans braving the cold, Mkhitaryan grabbed a vital away goal early in the first half. Although the home side later levelled, United got the job done at Old Trafford courtesy of a Juan Mata goal the following week and, of course, we went on to claim the trophy that season.
5. DONETSK, UKRAINE (2013)
Total distance travelled: 3,538 miles
Although Shakhtar have been forced to play home games in Lviv and Kyiv in recent years due to the war in Ukraine, our 2013 group-stage game against the Miners took place at the Donbass Arena, in the eastern reaches of the country. The Reds had seen off Bayer Leverkusen at Old Trafford in our Champions League Group A opener, and Danny Welbeck poked home Marouane Fellaini’s cross to put us in pole position in Ukraine after 18 minutes. With United under the cosh in the second half, 39-year-old Ryan Giggs came on as a substitute to surpass Raul's record number of appearances in the competition, but the Wales midfielder could do nothing to prevent Brazilian forward Taison equalising for the Ukrainian champions. United had the last laugh, however, going on to secure top spot after racking up 14 points from our six matches.
*Round trip from Manchester Airport to respective city's airport.