Our Champions League group-stage record
The draw for the 2020/21 UEFA Champions League group stage takes place on Thursday 1 October, around 16:00 BST.
Manchester United are back in Europe’s elite competition after a season away and Reds supporters across the world are eagerly awaiting the outcome of the event in Geneva, Switzerland to see which three sides we’ll be battling it out with between now and mid-December.
Of course, we’re no strangers to this part of the tournament - the 2020/21 season will mark United’s 23rd involvement in the Champions League first group-stage, since a smaller version of the current format was first introduced in 1994. Only Real Madrid (25), Barcelona and Bayern Munich (both 24) can boast more appearances in that time-frame.
With such a rich history, we thought we’d delve deeper into the Reds’ group-stage record…
Since that first appearance, we’ve only failed to reach the next phase – the knockout rounds, other than the four-year period between 1999 and 2003 when a second group stage was in place – on four occasions.
Perhaps surprisingly, three of these failures came under the legendary Sir Alex Ferguson (1994/95, 2005/06 and 2011/12), with the most recent occurring when Louis van Gaal was manager, during the 2015/16 campaign.
P132 W75 D30 L27 F234 A120*
1st = 12 times
2nd = 6 times
3rd = 3 times
4th = once
United have faced 46 different clubs in the Champions League group-stage, among them sides who have only qualified for the competition on one occasion, such as Kosice of Slovakia and Romanian outfit Otelul Galati.
We’ve become well acquainted with a few teams in particular, though, with Benfica our most common opponents of all. The Eagles of Lisbon were drawn against the Reds in 2005/06, 2006/07, 2011/12 and 2017/8. No other side can match that mark of four, although Juventus and CSKA Moscow have competed in the same group as United three times. The Old Lady could be visiting Old Trafford again this season – they are one of seven sides we can potentially face from Pot One.
The Reds have a 100 per cent group-stage record against 13 sides: Bayer Leverkusen, Braga, Brondby, Bursaspor, Feyenoord, Kosice, Olympiacos, Otelul Galati, Panathinaikos, Rapid Vienna, Sturm Graz, Sporting Lisbon and Young Boys.
Although it sadly looks as though the group stage will be played out in front of empty stands, the chances are that fans watching from home will be able to see us go up against some ‘new’ teams this season. Yes, we’ve played the likes of Real Madrid, Paris Saint-Germain and Inter Milan previously, but never at this stage of the competition, while Red Bull Leipzig, Atalanta and Borussia Monchengladbach – among others – would be entirely unfamiliar affairs.
Indeed, of the 23 sides it’s possible for us to be drawn against, only five – Bayern Munich, Juventus, Marseille, Dynamo Kiev and Olympiacos – have any history with United in the Champions League first group-stage.
Eight of United’s 22 group-stage involvements have seen us come up against Spanish opposition. which is the most of any country. Barcelona came out of the hat in 1994/95 and 1998/99, while Sir Alex’s side played Villarreal in 2005/06 and 2008/09. We’ve also played Valencia (twice), Deportivo La Coruna and Real Sociedad at this stage of the competition, but never Real Madrid or Sevilla – although that could change this time around.
A further 20 nations have played home-and-away games against us in the groups: Austria, Belgium, Croatia, Czech Republic, Denmark, France, Germany, Greece, Israel, Italy, Netherlands, Portugal, Romania, Russia, Scotland, Slovakia, Sweden, Switzerland, Turkey and Ukraine.
This list will grow by one, should we be drawn with Ferencvaros, of Hungary. The Budapest club overcame Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s former side Molde on Tuesday to confirm a first Champions League participation in 25 years.
*Stats do not include second group-phase, played from 1999/00 to 2002/03.