Europa League favourites Manchester United lose their opening game away at Feyenoord; Roma draw in the Czech Republic, and Villareal comes from behind to win at home against FC Zurich.
“It’s not a competition I want. It’s not a competition the club wants. It’s not a competition the players want.” Said Jose Mourinho ahead of their opening Europa League game against Feyenoord.
Unsurprisingly, the bookmakers favourite lost.
“I am not going to criticise my players,” said Mourinho after the loss.
How could he?
Manchester United arrived at the Rotterdam Stadium to begin the season in Europe’s second-tier competition for the first time in 21-years. It seems all that Champions League goodness has turned the club a little snobbish.
Feyenoord had never beaten Man United in Europe, but they had started their Eredivisie campaign in stunning form winning their first five games. United was coming into the match on the back of a humbling home defeat against their Premier League title rivals Man City.
Wayne Rooney was left in Manchester, a good thing. Chris Smalling was handed the armband in his place for his first start of the season, and there was also a berth up front for Marcus Rashford, also a good thing.
Feyenoord was the better side in the first half; United took charge in the latter. Anthony Martial was guilty of spurning United’s best chance of the game when he hooked a shot wide after good work from Matteo Darmian on the right. But it was a game of few chances.
The defining moment arrived in the 79th minute, in a period of football when United was searching for the win. The ball broke in midfield, and Nicolai Jorgensen was sent sprinting down the right-hand flank, albeit in an offside position. The Dane squared the ball, and Tonny Vilhena waltzed down an empty United midfield channel to slot the ball home.
United threw the kitchen sink at Feyenoord after that, but they couldn’t find the back of the net. The once mighty European travellers have now lost seven of their last eight away games, and four on the spin – a first in United’s illustrious history.
Roma Draw in the Czech Republic
Roma is the second favourite to win the title, and they also started their campaign with a stutter in the Czech Republic.
The Giallorossi ended up in this competition after being dumped out of the Champions League in the qualifying round by Porto, and they took the lead as early as the fourth minute thanks to a penalty from Diego Perotti. Roma managed to keep hold of the lead for seven minutes before Plzen hit back through Marek Bakos. Radja Nainggolan struck a post later on, and Stephan El Shaarawy had chances to win it, but the team from Plzen held on for a plucky point.
The Yellow Submarine Come From Behind to Beat Zurich
Villareal made a good fist of this tournament last season, losing to Liverpool 3-1 on aggregate, in the semi-finals, and so they begin this campaign as one of the favourites to lift the trophy. Unlike Man Utd and Roma the Yellow Submarine started with a win, coming from behind to beat FC Zurich by 2-1.
It wasn’t easy after Armando Sadiku had given Zurich the lead as early as the second minute, but an inspired performance by Alexandre Pato made sure the Spaniards fought back quickly.
The former AC Milan and Chelsea star equalised in the 28th minute after smashing home a half-volley from the edge of the box, before setting up Jonathan dos Santos to volley home the winner just before half-time after a little game of keepie-uppie with Pato.
Here is the full roundup of results.
Europa League Results (Week 1)
Astra Giurgiu 2 v 3 Austria Wien
Feyenoord 1 v 0 Man Utd
Sassuolo 3 v 0 Athletico Bilbao
Red Bull 0 v 1 FC Krasnodar
PAOK 0 v 0 Fiorentina
Panathinaikos 1 v 2 Ajax
Qarabag FK 2 v 2 Liberec
Rapid Wien 3 v 2 Genk
Zorya 1 v 1 Fenerbahce
Anderlecht 3 v 1 Gabala FC
Maccabi Rel Aviv 3 v 4 Zenit
Young Boys 0 v 1 Olympiacos
Viktoria Plzen 1 v 1 Roma
AZ Alkmaar 1 v 1 Dundalk
Mainz 05 1 v 1 ASSE
Apoel Nicosia 2 v 1 Astana
Osmanlispor 2 v 0 Steaua Bucharest
Inter Milan 0 v 2 H. Be’er Sheva
Standard Liege 1 v 1 Celta Vigo
Villareal 2 v 1 FC Zurich
Braga 1 v 1 Gent
Konyaspor 0 v 1 Shakhtar
Southampton 3 v 0 Sparta Prague
Nice 0 v 1 Schalke
Betting Odds Courtesy of Bodog
Manchester Utd +600
Schalke 04 +1400