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Man Utd verdict: Ten Hag’s troops could face Barcelona or Juventus in last-32… or an emotional trip to Ajax

ERIK TEN HAG could be handed a nightmare play-off tie against Barcelona after Manchester United failed to qualify top of their Europa League group.

An emotional return to Ajax is also on the cards.

Erik ten Hag failed to guide Manchester United to top of their Europa League group

United fell a goal short of a bye through to the Europa League last 16 in Thursday’s 1-0 win against Real Sociedad.

Instead a play-off tie to reach that stage against one of the eight sides to have dropped down from the Champions League awaits.

So not only do Ten Hag’s troops have two extra games in an already hectic schedule, a tough test against one of Europe’s big hitters is also on the cards.

Here SunSport runs through the eight teams Ten Hag and Co could face in a daunting play-off, which scheduled to take place in February.


The Red Devils and Barcelona have faced off plenty of times in the Champions League, but could find themselves pitted against each other in Europe’s second-tier competition.

The Spaniards are still rebuilding under Xavi and while they only won two of their Champions League group games, 10 wins out of 12 in La Liga proves they are still a formidable opponent.

But it might finally give United fans the chance to see Frenkie de Jong play at Old Trafford.

Frenkie de Jong could play at Old Trafford this season… for Barcelona


Ten Hag’s old side Ajax failed to qualify from a tricky Champions League group that included Napoli and Liverpool.

The Dutch champions may have shipped 15 goals in four games against the high-flying Italians and the Reds, but are sure to raise their game if pitted against former gaffer Ten Hag.

Ten Hag could be handed an emotional reunion with Ajax

Sporting Lisbon

Ten Hag isn’t the only one who could be handed an emotional tie.

Cristiano Ronaldo’s former club, Sporting Lisbon, are another possible opponent.

And the Portuguese outfit are no pushovers having taken four points off Tottenham in the Champions League group stages, and boast the talented Marcus Edwards in their ranks.

Marcus Edwards and Sporting Lisbon would be an awkward tie for United



Another of Ronaldo’s old employers who could be drawn out of the hat.

Although at this moment in time Sporting are probably the tougher opponents.

The Italian side lost five out of their six Champions League group games, and are struggling down in seventh place in Serie A.

Out of form Juventus are a potential opponent


The Spaniards are currently rebuilding under new manager Jorge Sampaoli, who only took over at the start of last month.

But the Spaniards are Europa League specialists, winning the tournament in four out of the last nine seasons.

They have also beaten United in two of the previous three meetings between the teams, including the 2020 Europa League semi-final.

Europa League specialists Sevilla could be drawn out of the hat

Bayer Leverkusen

A disappointing Champions League campaign saw the German side fail to reach the knockouts behind Porto and Club Brugge.

But Xabi Alonso’s side did beat Atletico Madrid at home and draw with the Spaniards away, so while they are a favourable opponent they are by no means pushovers.

Xabi Alonso’s Bayer Leverkusen failed to qualify for the Champions League knockouts

RB Salzburg

RB Salzburg knocked on the door of the Champions League knockouts until defeat to AC Milan in the final group game sent them down into the Europa League.

But the Austrian outfit did hold Chelsea to a draw at Stamford Bridge to prove they’ve got what it takes to cause top opposition problems.

RB Salzburg couldn’t capitalise on their impressive draw against Chelsea

Shakhtar Donetsk

The Ukrainian side are arguably the easiest of United’s eight possible opponents.

But, if drawn against them, the Red Devils will have to be wary of £87million Arsenal target Mykhaylo Mudryk.

The 21-year-old sensation scored three goals and provided three assists during the Champions League group stages, and will be desperate to prove he can perform against Premier League opposition.

The Red Devils could be drawn against danger man Mykhaylo Mudryk

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