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United face Ajax in Europa League bow

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LONDON, England December 16 – Manchester United will make their Europa League debut against four-time European champions Ajax Amsterdam next year after English clubs were handed a series of tricky draws on Friday.

United’s punishment for suffering a humiliating first round exit from this season’s Champions League is an awkward tie against the Dutch giants who boast one of the proudest histories in European football.

The two sides met in the old UEFA Cup in the 1976/77 season, United progressing 2-1 on aggregate.

The winners of the the tie will then face either Lokomotiv Moscow or Athletic Bilbao in the last 16.

United’s Premier League rivals Manchester City meanwhile were also given a testing tie after being paired with 2004 Champions League winners FC Porto from Portugal.

If City prevail in their opening knockout match they could then face another trip to Portugal, with a tie against Sporting Lisbon or Legia Warsaw in the last 16.

The third English team left in the competition, Stoke City, received arguably the hardest draw after being picked to play Spanish side Valencia, who were eliminated from the Champions League first round.

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