Manchester United fan gets a chance to end Arsenal’s Europa League ambitions

Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger eager to make progress in this season’s Europa League

Self-confessed Manchester United fan Jamie Hopcutt has an extra incentive to help Ostersund write another chapter in their remarkable recent history by sinking Arsenal in the last 32 of the Europa League.

The Swedish minnows – managed by former York defender Graham Potter – have landed the two-legged showdown with the Gunners after making it through to the knockout stages of the competition for the first time.

And the draw could not have been better for former York player Hopcutt, a ex-Old Trafford season ticket holder who has swapped loan spells at Whitby and Stokesley for one of the continent’s biggest competitions.

Hopcutt told Press Association Sport: “I’m a big Man United fan – my granddad and dad both went and I had a season ticket for three years as a kid – so if we could go there and knock Arsenal out of Europe it would be amazing.

“We’ve had an incredible run this season and beaten teams like Galatasaray, Hertha Berlin and Athletic Bilbao, so we can definitely go there with confidence. We’re on a special journey at the moment and we don’t want it to end.”

Hopcutt took the brave decision to swap the non-league nether regions for Sweden six years ago, and his arrival coincided with a remarkable rise for Ostersund, whom Potter steered from the Swedish fourth division to the top-ranked Allsvenskan in six years.

Meanwhile Celtic, who dropped into the Europa League after finishing third in their Champions League group, face a tough clash with Russians Zenit St Petersburg.

Zenit, who are well known to Scottish fans having beaten Rangers 2-0 in the 2008 Europa League final in Manchester, are currently fourth in the Russian Premier League.

For Hoops boss Brendan Rodgers the draw will also bring back memories of his time in charge of Liverpool, when they lost to Zenit on away goals in 2013.

Rodgers said: “I was there with Liverpool, we played the first leg away and lost 2-0 when they had obviously big investment in the team at the time.

“We had played well out there but gave a couple of sloppy goals away which was disappointing.

“In the second leg at home we went 1-0 down early on which was a 3-0 deficit but got back the three goals and we just needed one more.
“We are delighted to be in the draw, it is a really exciting game for us.”

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