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UEFA Europa League: Who are Partizan Belgrade, Manchester United’s Serbian group stage opposition

Manchester United found out their fate in the UEFA Europa League on Friday afternoon. Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s side was drawn against FC Astana of Kazakhstan, Partizan Belgrade of Serbia, and AZ Alkmaar of the Netherlands. It could be a tough test for United who has a largely inexperienced side after the first stage of Solskjaer’s rebuild.

FK Partizan, or Partizan Belgrade as they are known outside of Serbia have been in existence since the 4 October 1945, shortly after World War II ended. They will soon be heading into their 74th year of existence. Partizan play in the Serbian SuperLiga and have always played in the top tier of Yugoslavian and Serbian football.

Partizan was founded by young high officers of the Yugoslav People’s Army in 1945 in Belgrade, which was part of the Yugoslav Sports Association Partizan. They have played at the Partizan Stadium in Belgrade since 1949. The club won their first league title in the 1946/47 season, winning the Yugoslav First League 11 times up until the end of the 1986/87 season.

Partizan has won the Serbia and Montenegro First League eight times from the 1992/93 season until the 2004/05 season. Currently playing in the Serbian SuperLiga, the club has won this title eight times also, the first time during the 2007/08 season, last winning the title at the end of the 2016/17 season. Red Star Belgrade are the current holders, winning the title during the last two seasons.

Partizan has also won national cup 16 times; winning the Yugoslav Cup five times, the Serbia and Montenegro Cup four times and the Serbian Cup seven times, setting a record by lifting the cup last season. Partizan also won the Yugoslav Super Cup in 1989. The Serbian club won the Mitropa Cup in 1978. The club has not yet won a major European honour but they were the runners-up in the European Cup in the 1965/66 season.

To qualify for the UEFA Europa League this season, Partizan started in the second qualifying round where they beat Connah’s Quay 4-0 in aggregate, then beat Yeni Malatyaspor 3-2 on aggregate in the third qualifying round, also beating Solskjaer’s former club, Molde 3-2 on aggregate in the playoff round to earn their group stage position.

Who is the manager of Partizan Belgrade?

Savo Milošević currently manages Partizan and has done since the 27 March 2019, winning his first match days later, a 3-2 victory over FK Čukarički. In his first Eternal derby, the match against Red Star Belgrade, he suffered a defeat with his side losing 2-1 and scoring their only goal in the 90th minute, through Ricardo Gomes.

Milošević ended the 2018/19 season with Partizan qualifying for the qualification rounds of the UEFA Europa League, earning a group stage berth with three aggregate victories. The 45-year-old won his first trophy, beating Red Star in the Serbian Cup with Bojan Ostojić scoring the only goal of the game in the 14th minute.

Milošević had played football since the age of six, signing for Partizan at 14. He came through the youth system, playing his first senior match for the club in 1992, coming through the ranks as a striker. In 1995, he left Partizan, spending three season at Aston Villa, playing 117 times, scoring 33 goals. He then played for Real Zaragoza, Parma, Espanyol, Celta Viga, Osasuna, ending his playing career at Rubin Kazan.

Who plays for Partizan Belgrade?

Former United midfielder Zoran Tošić currently plays for Partizan with the 32-year-old joining his former club in 2017, the club he left to sign for United. Tošić spent around a year at United, signing for the club in January 2009 with teammate Adem Ljanić joining at the same time. Tošić played in five competitive matches for United, not scoring a single goal.

Tošić has scored three goals in nine appearances at Partizan this season. Another player at the club is Guinean international Seydouba Soumah, who has scored four goals in ten appearances so far this season. Serbian winger Filip Stevanović has four goals also, playing eight times so far this season. Goalkeeper and captain, Vladimir Stojković has also played ten times this season, keeping five clean sheets.

Milošević has depth in his squad with 30 players in his team at various stages of their careers. So far this season, after ten matches, although they should have played 12 by now, the manager has only used 23 of those 30 players. It will be a long, tough season for both United and Partizan, who will be seeking to add pressure to Red Star and current league leaders, Vojvodina, the club United signed Vanja Milinkovic-Savic from.

Does United have a history with Partizan Belgrade?

United has played Partizan twice in the history of both clubs. These matches were played during the 1965/66 season in the semi-final of the European Cup. The first leg was played in Belgrade, a 2-0 victory to the home side on the 13 April 1966. Seven days later, at Old Trafford, United won 1-0 with Nobby Styles scoring but United exited the competition 2-1 on aggregate.

Eight years previously, United played Red Star Belgrade (Crvena Zvezda as they are known in Serbia), winning 2-1 at Old Trafford with Bobby Charlton and Eddie Colman scoring the goals. Just over three weeks later, United faced Red Star in Belgrade. The match was switched to the Partizan Stadium where United drew 3-3, with Dennis Viollet scoring the opening goal and Bobby Charlton scoring a brace.

Of course, the Munich Air Disaster happened the following day when returning to Manchester, stopping in southern Germany to refuel. Eight of the players died in the crash; Geoff Bent, Roger Byrne, Eddie Colman, Duncan Edwards (15 days later), Mark Jones, David Pegg, Tommy Taylor and Liam Whelan, with two others never playing football again; Jackie Blanchflower and Johnny Berry.

This visit to the Partizan Stadium will be the first time the club has returned to play a competitive football match. United played Red Star again back in 1991 in the UEFA Super Cup at Old Trafford, a match they won 1-0 with Brian McClair scoring the only goal of the match. This will be emotional, effectively playing in the same stadium as the Busby Babes did all those years ago. It should be a celebration that football did not die on that fateful day.

When are the matches against Partizan Belgrade going to be played?

United will face Partizan in Belgrade on Thursday 24 October 2019 with the match kicking off at 17:55 BST. The match at Old Trafford will come a fortnight later on Thursday 7 November 2019, kicking off at 20:00 GMT. The first match will come days after welcoming Liverpool to Old Trafford and the visit to Norwich City. The second match will be played between a visit to Bournemouth and a clash with Brighton and Hove Albion at Old Trafford.

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