Qualifying top of their group in the Europa League, Manchester United were handed a first knockout round against Cercle Brugge, whom they dispatched 6-1 on aggregate, before being drawn against LASK in the second.
The Austrian side, managed by former Bayern Munich defender Valérien Ismaël, were having the season of their life before Covid-19 brought everything to a stop, making it that far in the Europa League and topping the Austrian Bundesliga, six points ahead of RB Salzburg.
Leading up to the game, there were many questions as to whether the fixture should be played at all, with the decision eventually taken to do so, but behind closed doors.
It didn’t go well for the Austrian minnows, as they were torn apart by Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s men, losing 5-0 at home.
For Ismaël, speaking to Eurosport, the Covid-19 pandemic ruined pretty much everything.
He said: “When David plays against Goliath, a lot of things need to go your way. The first and most important is to have your fans behind you. When you play United in an empty stadium, they feel less pressure. Plus, in the space of a week, two important players picked up serious injuries. Furthermore, two of our three starting defenders were suspended. And that’s before speaking about the context…
“Every hour, there was contradictory information: “we play, we don’t”. In our preparation, it was really hard. We couldn’t be happy like it was planned. It should have been the game of the century for Linz and, in the end, you can’t even celebrate it with your fans. Regarding the game itself, the regret is to have conceded two goals in the second half’s stoppage time”.
That means that when (or if) the second leg takes place, LASK will have to overturn a five goal deficit when they travel to Old Trafford to do so.
We’re not saying it’s going to be impossible, because crazy things have happened in football, but it’s going to be very, very difficult.