Partizan Belgrade v United: Match preview
Manchester United face Partizan Belgrade on Thursday evening in the UEFA Europa League (kick-off 17:55 BST).
It’s the third match in Group L for Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s men, and we currently sit second in the standings, after a 1-0 home win over FC Astana and a goalless draw with AZ in the Hague three weeks ago.
Here’s everything you need to know ahead of our clash in Serbia against the side nicknamed ‘The Steamroller’...
HOW CAN I FOLLOW THE GAME?
MUTV subscribers will be able to watch the usual build-up via the Match Day show, which will be on air from 16:30 BST. This will be followed by comprehensive live radio commentary, while website and Official App users can follow our in-depth coverage, including live data and player statistics in the Match Centre.
IS IT BEING SHOWN ON TV?
Yes, fans in the UK will be able to watch Partizan v United live on BT Sport 2. Kick-off is at 17:55 BST, but if you can’t make it, don’t worry: MUTV will be showing the full match the following day.
Partizan Stadium, or JNA Stadium as it was formerly known, holds a special place in United history: it was the ground at which the Busby Babes played their final game, prior to the Munich Air Disaster. We actually went head-to-head with Partizan’s arch-rivals Red Star back in 1958 (the match was drawn 3-3, giving United a 5-4 aggregate win), although we did return eight years later, but more on that below. The venue has a capacity of 32,710, making it the second biggest in Belgrade, after the Rajko Mitic Stadium, which hosts Red Star and the Serbian national team. In August, UEFA ordered Partizan to play two European home games behind closed doors as a sanction for the racist behaviour of some fans. That suspension has now been served, with Thursday's encounter being open to all supporters.
While Astana and AZ Alkmaar have been totally new opponents for United during this Europa League campaign, we have history with Partizan, who knocked us out of the European Cup at the semi-final stage in 1966. Second-half goals from Mustafa Hasanagic and Rodaslav Becejac in Belgrade left Matt Busby’s side with a mountain to climb at Old Trafford a week later. In a hotly-contested return in Manchester, Paddy Crerand and Jovan Miladinovic were sent off for fighting, before Nobby Stiles pulled one back for United. We couldn’t find another goal, though, and it was Partizan who progressed to the tournament's showpiece event, where they would lose 2-1 to Real Madrid.
Aaron Wan-Bissaka and Anthony Martial returned after injury lay-offs during United’s 1-1 draw with Liverpool on Sunday, and are among Ole Gunnar Solskjaer's travelling squad for the trip to Belgrade. Jesse Lingard, who Ole hinted was on the path to a first-team return at the weekend, was also on the plane, as was Phil Jones, who returned to the substitutes' bench against Liverpool after almost a month out injured. David De Gea, Axel Tuanzebe, Luke Shaw, Paul Pogba and Nemanja Matic have not travelled. The manager will provide further updates in his pre-match press conference, which you can follow on our Official App this Wednesday evening.
A LOOK AT OUR OPPONENTS
Partizan are the second-most successful side in Serbia, after their arch-rivals Red Star. They have claimed 27 national championships, including 11 Yugoslav First Leagues, eight Serbia and Montenegro First Leagues and eight Serbia SuperLigas. They were the first team from Eastern Europe ever to make it to the European Cup final, in 1966, and 2019/20 marks their 44th season playing in continental competition. The club’s official nickname, ‘The Steamroller’, was first given after a 7-1 hammering of Red Star in December 1953 - and reference to it is even included in the club anthem! Some names you'll recognise who begun their careers at Partizan include former Manchester City players Stevan Jovetic and Matija Nastasic, as well as Fulham forward Aleksandar Mitrovic.
As it stands, Partizan are top of Europa League Group L by virtue of goals scored. They drew 2-2 with 10-man AZ Alkmaar in their opening match, before recording an impressive 2-1 victory in Astana on Matchday 2, courtesy of a brace from on-loan Roma forward Umar Sadiq. In the Serbian SuperLiga, the Black-Whites are aiming to improve on last season, when they finished third, 30 points behind rivals Red Star; however, they did win the Serbian Cup for the fourth year in a row. Currently they sit fifth in the league, having won seven, drawn two and lost two of their matches so far in 2019/20.
PLAYERS TO LOOK OUT FOR
Partizan can call upon a number of players with Premier League experience in their squad, not least Zoran Tosic, who played five games during a short spell at Old Trafford back in 2009. Former Liverpool winger Lazar Markovic rejoined the Black-Whites in the summer and has netted three goals in four league games already, while goalkeeper and captain Vladimir Stojkovic can count spells at Wigan Athletic and Nottingham Forest on his lengthy CV. Top-scorer Sadiq is Partizan’s primary dangerman, although Guinea international Seydouba Soumah has mustered six strikes in all competitions from midfield this season. Israeli playmaker Bibras Natkho boasts a wealth of European experience, having played in the Champions League for Rubin Kazan and CSKA Moscow, for whom he featured against United back in 2015.
WHO’S THE REFEREE?
Spain's Xavier Estrada Fernandez will take charge of tomorrow’s match, with Roberto Alonso Fernandez and Inigo Prieto Lopez de Cerain as his assistants and Pablo Gonzalez Fuertes as fourth official. The Video Assistant Referee system will not be used in this season’s Europa League until the final in Gdansk on 27 May 2020.
The Reds’ trip to Serbia is one of 13 early kick-offs in the Europa League this Thursday, with our Premier League rivals Wolves also in action at the same time. Arsenal get their home match against Portuguese side Vitoria SC under way later on in the evening. Here is the full programme of fixtures for Matchday 3:
THURSDAY 24 OCTOBER
AZ Alkmaar v Astana
Besiktas v Braga
CSKA Moscow v Ferencvaros
Gent v Wolfsburg
Istanbul Basaksehir v Wolfsberg
Ludogorets v Espanyol
Partizan v UNITED
Porto v Rangers
Qarabag v APOEL
Roma v Monchengladbach
Saint Etienne v Oleksandriya
Slovan Bratislava v Wolverhampton Wanderers
Young Boys v Feyenoord
Arsenal v Vitoria SC
Celtic v Lazio
Dynamo Kyiv v Copenhagen
Eintracht Frankfurt v Standard Liege
Getafe v Basel
Malmo v Lugano
PSV Eindhoven v LASK
Rennes v CFR Cluj
Sevilla v Dudelange
Sporting CP v Rosenborg
Trabzonspor v Krasnodar
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