When Manchester United travels to the Zimbru Stadium on Thursday to play Moldovan powerhouses Sheriff Tiraspol, they will be looking to earn their first Europa League victory of the season.
On the opening day of play, Real Sociedad defeated the Red Devils 1-0, while Omonia Nicosia was soundly defeated 3-0 by their hosts.
Sheriff Tiraspol, who made headlines in the Champions League last season, overcame their elimination from the qualifying round of the premier continental competition to easily defeat Omonia last week in an effort to demonstrate that their European savvy is still very much alive.
The team led by Stjepan Tomas has quickly risen to the top of Group E’s standings, which would advance them to the knockout rounds for the second consecutive season.
Sheriff’s defensive toughness should be on display on Thursday as they attempt to improve upon their last season’s last-32 elimination to Braga. They warmed up for the game in the best possible way with a 2-0 Super Liga victory against Milsami Orhei on Sunday.
Sheriff hasn’t lost in any tournament since being defeated by Viktoria Plzen in Champions League qualifying; they’ve won six and drawn two of their last eight games, extending their winning streak to eight games overall.
At Old Trafford last Thursday, where the conversation leading up to the game was predominated by the news of Queen Elizabeth II’s passing and whether the match would proceed as scheduled, Man United had every right to object to the contentious penalty decision in favor of Real Sociedad.
The two teams did enter the Old Trafford field to pay their respects, but the atmosphere quickly soured when Lisandro Martinez was called for a handball despite the fact that the ball struck his leg before rebounding up onto his arm. Brais Mendez welcomed the opportunity to score the game-winning penalty kick.
Erik ten Hag and company’s loss to Imanol Alguacil’s team came as quite a shock after they had previously won four straight Premier League games. As a result of the postponement of their match against Leeds United, this will be their final game before the international break.
Since the pre-COVID days of October 2019, the traveling Old Trafford crowd have seen their team score in each of their side’s past 15 away European games, but Sheriff’s steadfast defense will prove to be a severe examination.
Sheriff and Man United have never faced off in a professional match, and Thursday’s match will be the hosts’ third encounter with English opponents following two losses to Christian Eriksen’s Tottenham Hotspur in the 2013–14 Europa League group stage, by scores of 2-0 and 2-1.