GENEVA (AP) — Manchester United will start another season in the Europa League in a group with Real Sociedad, Sheriff and Omonoia after the draw was made Friday.
Man United, which won the Europa League in 2017 and was the beaten finalist two years ago, entered the second-tier competition by placing just sixth in the Premier League last season.
It was unclear Friday if Cristiano Ronaldo will still be at the club for the first round of games on Sept. 8 with more speculation linking him to a move from Old Trafford, this time with Napoli which is in the Champions League. On Thursday, Napoli was drawn in the same group as Liverpool.
The draw brings United face-to-face again with long-time Manchester City favorite David Silva, who returned to Spain to play for Sociedad, and involves two of the longest journeys to away games in the draw – to Moldova and Cyprus.
The Russian war on Ukraine has affected Man United’s trip to face Sheriff, which has been playing European home games in Chisinau instead of its home city Tiraspol. Tiraspol is in the Russian-supporting breakaway region of Transnistria which borders Ukraine.
UEFA decided in June to block Sheriff playing in Tiraspol citing “the large-scale military escalation resulting in the invasion of the Ukrainian territory by the Russian army.” Russian teams are also currently banned from all UEFA competitions.
Dynamo Kyiv of Ukraine – which will play its home games in neighboring Poland – will face Rennes, Fenerbahçe and AEK Larnaca.
Arsenal’s fifth Europa League campaign in six seasons will be in a group with PSV Eindhoven — coached by former United striker Ruud van Nistelrooy — Bodø/Glimt and Zürich.
Roma coach Jose Mourinho is back in the competition he won with Man United five years ago. The Europa Conference League title holder was drawn in a group with Ludogorets, Real Betis and HJK Helsinki.
The group-stage draw in the third-tier Europa Conference League was being made later Friday at the same venue in Istanbul, which also staged the Champions League draw Thursday.
Lazio was among the top-seeded teams and was grouped with Feyenoord, Midtjylland and Sturm Graz.
The Europa League starts early this season on Sept. 8 and ends more than one month sooner than usual on Nov. 3. That is because of the World Cup in Qatar, which starts Nov. 20.
The six rounds of group-stage games span just eight full weeks before a midwinter break until the knockout playoffs round starts Feb. 16.
Group winners advance direct to the round of 16 in March and runners-up go to the knockout playoffs with the eight teams switching across from the Champions League after finishing third in a group there.
The Europa League final is on May 31 at the 65,000-capacity Puskás Aréna in Budapest, Hungary.
Third-place teams in Europa League groups in November move to the knockout playoffs in the third-tier Europa Conference League.
Europa League teams share about 465 million euros ($466 million) in UEFA prize money.
Each team gets a basic fee of 3.63 million euros ($3.63 million), plus 630,000 euros per win and 210,000 euros for each draw in the group stage. Payments increase for advancing through each knockout round.
A team starting in the Europa group stage and eventually winning the title can earn about 40 million euros ($40 million) in UEFA prize money. That’s about one-third of expected earnings in Champions League prize money.
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