Football: United to encounter little-known but formidable Midtjylland

Midtjylland are drawn to face Manchester United in the last 32 of the Europa League. The Danish champions knocked out English Premier League side Southampton earlier in the tournament.
Midtjylland are drawn to face Manchester United in the last 32 of the Europa League. The Danish champions knocked out English Premier League side Southampton earlier in the tournament. PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

NYON • Midtjylland were founded in 1999, just a month before Manchester United won their historic Treble - the English Premier League (EPL), the FA Cup and the European Cup.

In February, the two clubs will meet in the last 32 of the Europa League following yesterday's draw.

The little-known side represent a tricky tie for the triple European champions and their under-fire manager Louis van Gaal.

The Danish league winners, an unsung club backed by owner Matthew Benham, have already eliminated EPL club Southampton in the competition.

Midtjylland's pony-tailed chairman Rasmus Ankersen, appointed by former financier and professional gambler Benham, who also owns English second-tier club Brentford, issued a warning after the draw.

"We have already beaten one English team so we are not afraid," he said.

"We are a small club with a small budget and we know we can't outspend them, so we have to out-think them and, so far, this way has worked for us in the Europa League.

"We know we have a chance and we will take up the challenge. If we can beat Southampton, we can beat Manchester United and the players will feel that and believe it."

Midtjylland have adopted the use of mathematical modelling and key performance indicators in their management and style of play, factors van Gaal will need to study after a probable call to fellow Dutchman and Southampton manager Ronald Koeman.

Van Gaal has received a great deal of criticism after his team's Champions League exit and their 2-1 defeat by promoted Bournemouth in the Premier League on Saturday.

Liverpool manager Juergen Klopp returns to Germany to face Augsburg, another club in their maiden European campaign.

Liverpool and Augsburg have never met, although the German side did defeat Klopp's Borussia Dortmund in the Bundesliga last season.

Said their sporting executive Stefan Reuter: "We've won our last match against Klopp 1-0. We take that as a good omen. We have an experienced team and playing Liverpool is something very special."

Tottenham will again meet Fiorentina after being dumped out of the competition by the Italian Serie A side last season.

Sevilla, bidding for a hat-trick of Europa League titles, meet Norwegian team Molde.

The first legs will be played on Feb 18 and the return matches seven days later.

REUTERS

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on December 15, 2015, with the headline 'United to encounter little-known but formidable Midtjylland'. Print Edition | Subscribe