Manchester United’s potential Champions League play-off opponents: Rapid Vienna factfile

by Sam Peoples

Rapid Wien benefited from a change in rules in the Austrian top flight this season as the second placed side were rewarded with a place in the Champions League qualifying rounds rather than the Europa League as in previous years.

It was a relatively successful season for the Austrian side having lost out on the domestic title to Red Bull Salzburg by just six points. They will be part of the Champions League qualifying rounds this summer for the first time since 2008.

The Vienna side scored 21 goals less than Champions Salzburg with only 68 goals, perhaps highlighting an over reliance on striker Robert Beric. The Slovenian forward scored 27 goals in just 33 appearances, an incredible 19 more than any of his team-mates.

Having conceded only 38 goals in 36 games, Rapid were the most defensively sound side in their division. Their goalkeeper, Jan Novota, is a Slovakian international who kept 14 clean sheets in the League this season.

Man United might be most wary of Beric in attack, though they will also be facing a club legend in Steffen Hoffman in midfield. The German, a graduate of the Bayern Munich academy, is the side’s lead assist maker this term with eight.

Although the Vienna Club have rarely troubled Europe, winning only the Intertoto Cup on three occasions, Man United do have history with them. Sir Matt Busby’s team beat them 3-0 on aggregate en route to the European Cup in 1969, before Sir Alex Ferguson’s side were drawn against them in the 1996 group stages.

Whilst Rapid Wien have been one of the most feared sides in Austria this season, not many Man United players or fans will be complaining if drawn against them come August.

However, it is quite unlikely that they will even be in the draw to face Louis van Gaal’s side, as they will first have to overcome superior opposition in the preceding third qualifying round. If they can come through that, it might be time for the players and manager to sit up and take serious notice of the Austrian club.

Ranking of Preference to draw Man United (11 worst, 1 best): 1

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