Manchester United draw Sociedad, Sheriff and Omonia in Europa League group stage

Former Fulham and West Brom flier Zoltan Gera on draw duties

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Manchester United have drawn Spanish side Real Sociedad, Moldovan champions Sheriff and Cypriot minnows Omonia in the Europa League group stages.

Winners of the competition in 2017, United are back in the Europa League having failed to qualify for the Champions League last season. On their last tournament appearance in 2020/21, they reached the final under Ole Gunnar Solskjaer but lost to Villarreal on penalties in Gdasnk.

New United manager Erik ten Hag will likely use the Europa League group stages to give chances to players on the fringes of the first team, given the packed fixture list ahead of the Qatar 2022 World Cup, which starts in mid-November.

Sociedad finished sixth in La Liga last season to qualify for the Europa League and represent United’s stiffest challenge. The squad carries plenty of talent including homegrown captain Asier Illarramendi, who spent three years away from the club at Real Madrid, and Spain international Mikel Oyarzabal. But Swedish striker Alexander Isak is on the verge of completing a big-money transfer to Newcastle United.

Sheriff have dominated Moldovan football over recent years and grabbed headlines around the world last year when they beat Real Madrid – the eventual European champions – at the Bernabeu. Uefa has prohibited matches being played in Sheriff’s region, Transnistria, due to reasons relating to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, so Sheriff must find an alternative venue to host their home games.

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Omonia are based in the Cypriot capital Nicosia and have a rich domestic history with 21 league titles and 15 cups. They met Manchester City in the first round of the 2008-09 Europa League, losing both legs 2-1. The club were managed by former United defender Henning Berg until his sacking in February, when he was replaced by ex-Celtic manager Neil Lennon.

The road to this year’s final in Budapest will begin on Thursday 8 September with the group stages set to be completed in early November in order to make way for the Qatar World Cup.

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