Manchester United have been handed a mouthwatering reunion with former striker Robin van Persie in this season’s Europa League. Jose Mourinho’s side will also meet Dutch giant Feyenoord and Zorya Luhansk of Ukraine in Group A.
“It is a good draw for us. We think we are in the Champions League. There are very similar groups in the Champions League,” said Mourinho.
“It is a difficult group but it is good. If you have teams without expression, even fans wouldn’t enjoy Thursdays.
“We all know the competition is not the same as the Champions League but to have Manchester United playing against clubs with tradition like Fenerbahce and Feyenoord is good for us. I don’t have more vision about Ukraine.”
Second in the Turkish league last season to Istanbul rival Besiktas, Fenerbahce was eliminated from the Champions League by Monaco in the third qualifying round.
It has since sacked coach Vitor Pereira and replaced him with veteran Dutchman Dick Advocaat, whose squad includes Van Persie and former Liverpool defender Martin Skrtel.
Van Persie, 33, spent three seasons at Old Trafford before moving to Turkey last year.
United can also look forward to coming up against Van Persie’s hometown team and first club Feyenoord.
The 1970 European Cup winner and twice winner of the UEFA Cup finished third in the Dutch top flight last season and also won the Dutch Cup. Now coached by former Arsenal and Barcelona left-back Giovanni van Bronckhorst, the Rotterdam side is captained by Dirk Kuyt, formerly of Liverpool and Fenerbahce.
United has faced both of these sides in the Champions League in the past, but the Ukrainians are a new proposition as they feature at this stage of European competition for the first time.
The other English Premier League representative, Southampton, was also given a tough draw in Group K along with Italian giant Inter Milan, Sparta Prague of the Czech Republic and Israel’s Hapoel Beer-Sheva.
Meanwhile, Irish champion Dundalk, knocked out of the Champions League playoffs by Legia Warsaw, will face former UEFA Cup winner Zenit St Petersburg, AZ Alkmaar of the Netherlands and Maccabi Tel Aviv of Israel in Group D.
Ajax Amsterdam once beat Greece’s Panathinaikos in a European Cup final, and will meet again along with Standard Liege of Belgium and Spain’s Celta Vigo in Group G.
AS Roma, Viktoria Plzen, and Astra Giurgiu, which knocked out West Ham United, all lost in Champions League qualifying this month and are with Austria Vienna in Group E.
Europa League Groups
GROUP A: Manchester United, Fenerbahce, Feyenoord, Zorya Luhansk
GROUP B: Olympiacos, APOEL Nicosia, Young Boys, Astana
GROUP C: Anderlecht, Saint-Etienne, Mainz, Gabala
GROUP D: Zenit St Petersburg, AZ Alkmaar, Maccabi Tel Aviv, Dundalk
GROUP E: Viktoria Plzen, AS Roma, Austria Vienna, Astra Giurgiu
GROUP F: Athletic Bilbao. Genk, Rapid Vienna, Sassuolo
GROUP G: Ajax, Standard Liege, Celta Vigo, Panathinaikos
GROUP H: Shakhtar Donetsk, Braga, Gent, Konyaspor
GROUP I: Schalke, Salzburg, Krasnodar, Nice
GROUP JL Fiorentina, PAOK, Slovan Liberec, Qarabag
GROUP KL Inter Milan, Sparta Prague, Southampton, Hapoel Be’er Sheva
GROUP L: Villarreal, Steaua Bucharest, Zurich, Osmanlispor
When are the group stage games?
Matchday one: 15/09/16 – Buy Europa League Tickets
Matchday two: 29/09/16 – Buy Europa League Tickets
Matchday three: 20/10/16 – Buy Europa League Tickets
Matchday four: 03/11/16 – Buy Europa League Tickets
Matchday five: 24/11/16 – Buy Europa League Tickets
Matchday six: 08/12/16 – Buy Europa League Tickets