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The Champions League football on the pitch in Seville.

'How United have missed the big European nights!'

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Big Champions League nights, how we’ve missed you.

We used to take them for granted - it was a near permanent part of the early Spring football calendar under Sir Alex Ferguson. It’s been four long years since United last played a knockout tie in the most prestigious cup competition of the lot.

When Patrice Evra sledgehammered a sizzling strike into the top corner of the Bayern Munich net on that Bavarian night that give us futile hope of a dramatic win in 2014, who’d have thought we wouldn’t experience the unique tension and thrills of a Champions League knockout tie until 2018? 

It’s only when you’re on the outside, that you realise just how special the competition is. 

The Europa League campaign provided many great memories but that was an undeniable feeling of being on the margins of European football.

Thursday nights just felt wrong for Manchester United! 6pm kick-offs just felt wrong. I openly admit to feeling real envy when I saw United’s Premier League rivals strutting their stuff in the Champions League over the past few seasons. 

This is the competition where United belong - in many ways it defines our history.

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A first competitive meeting with Sevilla will be a test. The Roman Sanchez Pizuan Stadium will be jumping. Sevilla have lost there just once since November 2016! 

They’re in good form with plenty of Premier League knowhow. Goals tend to fly in at both ends in their matches as we saw when they came from 3-0 down to draw with Liverpool in the group stage. All the ingredients are there for a memorable tie. 

It’s a special city for the travelling fan and a special city for Jose Mourinho - it’s where he won his first European trophy when his Porto side beat Celtic in 2003. 

Let’s hope the boss can use his vast European experience to help United continue the brilliant European journey well beyond the last 16 stage!

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