Manchester United's first foray into Europe's 2nd-tier competition in 17 years will be against Ajax of Amsterdam, winners of the 1992 edition of the then UEFA Cup.
Following their humiliation at the hands of Barcelona in last season’s Champions League final, the Red Devils embarked on a spending spree in the summer, with hopes of playing in the Allianz Arena come that Saturday evening in May. Despite a fast start to the season, United's overall form chose the worst possible time to take a dip.
They bowed out of the group stages after a 2-1 loss to FC Basel, managing only 2 wins against - albeit unconvincingly - against Romanian outfit Otelul Galati; marking the first time in six years that United would fail to progress to the knockout round.
This time, United get a rare opportunity to compete for a trophy that they have yet to win. Some very good United squads have faltered in this very competition, and the road won't be any easy as there are some really good teams in this year's edition. FC Porto - the defending champs -, Atletico Madrid (winners in 2010), PSV Eindhoven are just a few of the notable names.
Should United get past Ajax, who should be quite the formidable opponent, they will face either Lokomotiv Moscow or Atletico Bilbao. Either one should be a tough encounter for two reasons. First, not too many teams enjoy away games on Russian soil. Results are hard to come by, and United should know this first hand, as it was Russian side Rotor Volgograd that knocked them out back in 1995. Second, United's haven't enjoyed that much success on Spanish soil either.
Despite losing Nemanja Vidic to a season ending injury, and Darren Fletcher also seeming lost for the year as well, United's form in their 4-1 whipping of Wolves was very impressive, and reminiscent of their early season display.
Even though Sir Alex Ferguson initially expressed his "disappointment" in having to play in this tournament, it's good to see that he's changed his stance since then, committing himself toward winning a trophy that is surprisingly missing from his overflowing cabinet.