Mourinho happy with short French trip as Pogba brothers set to face-off
Manchester United will play French side St Etienne in the last 32 of the Europa League.
United qualified as Group A runners-up and were paired with Christophe Galtier’s team, who beat Anderlecht in their final Group C game to pip the Belgian outfit to top spot.
Tottenham were handed the short trip to Belgium to face Group H runners-up Gent, who qualified by winning their final match against Konyaspor.
United boss Jose Mourinho welcomed the short trip to France after a Group A campaign which saw his side travel to Turkey and Ukraine to face Fenerbahce and Zorya Luhansk respectively.
“The good thing is the travel,” he said. “We were very unlucky in the group stage...now we go to France.”
The tie pits United’s Paul Pogba, the world’s most expensive player, against his brother Florentin.
“It’s nice, it’s a nice thing,” said Mourinho, who also said he expected Henrikh Mkhitaryan to be back for the festive schedule. “Paul will be laughing, and his brother will be laughing.”
The French side seemed excited to be welcoming United, posting a simple response on Twitter which read: “#UELdraw OMG!”
And news of facing Tottenham seemed to have captured the attention of Gent’s public as well.
The club tweeted around an hour after the draw: “As soon as there’s more ticket information, we will communicate. Now please stop calling us #UEL”
As in their Champions League campaign, which ended with a third-placed finish in Group E, Tottenham will play the home leg of the tie at Wembley.
Elsewhere, the draw threw up several enticing fixtures — perhaps none more so than Serie A high-fliers Roma being paired with Villarreal.
Fiorentina take on Borussia Monchengladbach, Lyon tackle Holland’s AZ Alkmaar, while Shakhtar Donetsk, top scorers in the group stage and the only team to win all six of their games, will play Celta Vigo.
Besiktas, whose stadium was the site of a terrorist attack on police in Istanbul following their Super Lig game against Bursaspor at the weekend, will take on Israel’s Hapoel Be’er-Sheva.
First-leg ties will be played on February 16, with the return on February 23 except St Etienne against United and Fenerbahce v Krasnodar (both February 22).