Manchester United returned to the UEFA Champions League this season after finishing third in the Premier League last season. United last appeared in the competition during the 2018/19 season coming up against Young Boys, Valencia and Juventus in the group stages, finishing second to Juventus and coming up against Paris Saint-Germain in the round of 16, losing 2-0 at Old Trafford in the first leg. A 3-1 victory in Paris saw United make the quarter-finals, coming unstuck against Barcelona losing 1-0 at Old Trafford and 3-0 at the Nou Camp. United will be relishing this opportunity to play in the elite European competition once more.
This season, United have been drawn against French champions Paris Saint-Germain, Turkish champions Istanbul Basaksehir and German side RB Leipzig, who finished third in the Bundesliga also reaching the semi-final of the Champions League last season, beaten by eventual runners-up, PSG. It is a tough group for United and one that they should be seeking to get the best out of from the very start as they will need to start strong this season in order to ensure they get out of the group and prolong their participation in the competition this season. Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has a strong squad although they are licking their wounds at this moment in time.
Team Background and Pedigree
RB Leipzig are the youngest team in this group, founded on the 19 May 2009, just over 11 years ago. In their debut season (2009/10), Leipzig won the NOFV-Oberliga Süd, the fifth tier of German football with 80 points and won promotion to the Regionalliga Nord. The club then played in the fourth tier of German football for three seasons, winning promotion in the 2012/13 season to 3. Liga, the third tier of German football. Leipzig were promoted that season to the 2. Bundesliga, playing two season in the second tier before winning promotion to the Bundesliga, the top tier of German football where they are now into their fourth season in the top flight.
Aside of winning the NOFV-Oberliga Süd (2009/10) and the Regionalliga Nordost (2012/13), Leipzig have also won the Saxony Cup twice (2010/11 and 2012/13). In Europe, the German club has not won any trophies but in their relatively short history, they have achieved something, reaching the UEFA Europa League quarter-finals during the 2017/18 season and last season (2019/20), reaching the semi-finals of the UEFA Champions League, knocked out by Paris Saint-Germain, the runners-up who they will also face in the group stages of the competition this season. Leipzig have some linked clubs; RB Salzburg, New York Red Bulls, Red Bull Brasil and Red Bull Bragantino.
Manchester United Connections
There are no players that used to play for United in the current Leipzig squad but there are players that United have been linked to recently. One of those players is 21-year-old Dayot Upamecano who is contracted to the club until the summer of 2023 but has a release clause that could be triggered next summer in the region of €42 million. So far in his career at Leipzig, the French defender has made a total of 117 appearances, scoring three goals and two assists. Another player linked to United was 21-year-old Ibrahima Konaté, another central defender. He’s contracted until the summer of 2023 and has made 74 appearances, scoring three goals and one assist.
Players To Watch
Dayot Upamecano,21, is vastly becoming one of the best central defenders in Europe and will be highly sought after next summer, with his release clause becoming active. He will be a major player to keep a look out for. Goalkeeper Péter Gulácsi, 30, previously played for Liverpool, despite some loan spells out of the club and was sold to RB Salzburg then to Leipzig. He has been capped 35 times for Hungary and last played earlier in the week against Serbia. Yussuf Poulsen, 26, is another player to keep a lookout for. He has scored two goals for his club this season, along with Emil Forsberg and Amadou Haidara as the top scorers for the season so far.
Where does RB Leipzig play their home matches?
Leipzig play their home matches in the Red Bull Arena which was formerly called the Zentralstadion. In UEFA led competitions, due to sponsorship requirements, their home ground will be called the RB Arena. The stadium was built between 2000 and 2004, opened on the 17 November 2004 and holds a maximum crowd side of 42,959 supporters (50,000 for a concert). The Zentralstadion was opened in 1956 and at that time was the biggest stadium in Europe and able to hold 100,000 supporters. This outside of the stadium remains the same with the RB Arena build inside the old stadium, much like Soldier Field in Chicago.
Who manages RB Leipzig?
Julian Nagelsmann is the current manager of RB Leipzig. Born on the 23 July 1987 and aged just 33, Nagelsmann is one of the youngest manager’s in European football. He started out as a youth player for FC Augsburg, also playing for 1860 Munich at youth level. He made the 1860 Munich II side during the 2006/07 season, playing for FC Augsburg II during the 2007/08 season. After sone injuries, in which he injured his knee and meniscus for the second time, damaging the cartilage, he decided to end his playing career. He joined the 1899 Hoffenheim youth academy as a coach in 2010, becoming the head coach from the 2016/17 season – for three years. From there, he became the Leipzig manager in 2019.
When will the matches against RB Leipzig be played, and where?
United will welcome Leipzig to Old Trafford on Wednesday 28th October 2020 with the match kicking off at 20:00 GMT. It will be the first time that both teams will have met competitively, which will make this encounter interesting. The reverse fixture will be played at the Red Bull Arena in Leipzig on Tuesday 8 December 2020 with kick off scheduled for 20:00 GMT. This will be the final fixture in the group for both teams with both hoping that they have done enough already to qualify for the latter rounds of the competition. Leipzig reached the semi-finals of the Champions League last season and will at least be hoping to get out of the group again.
Written by John Walker