Manchester United kick-off their Champions League campaign against Young Boys on Wednesday evening.
Ahead of the Group H opener in Bern, Football Paradise’s Simon Peach takes a look at the side hosting Jose Mourinho’s men.
Young Boys have widespread European experience, but this will be their first taste of the Champions League group stage. Gerardo Seoane’s side beat Dinamo Zagreb last month to reach the group stage at the sixth attempt, meaning mouth-watering clashes with Juventus, Valencia and United lie in wait. But while they may not have got this far in the Champions League, they have made their mark on the continental scene and reached the semi-finals of the European Cup in 1958-59. Die Gelb-Schwarzen made the quarter-finals of the Cup Winners’ Cup 30 years ago and have been Europa League regulars.
YB are basking in the afterglow of last season’s Swiss Super League triumph – their 12th league title and first since 1986. Young Boys upset the odds to end the eight-year stranglehold enjoyed by Basel, who beat United in Switzerland in last season’s group stage before bowing out in the last 16 to Manchester City. The Swiss side have kicked off their title defence with six wins from as many matches, meaning they have the largest lead at this stage of the season since a 10-team league format was introduced in 2003. However, Young Boys did need extra-time to edge past Schaffhausen in the Swiss Cup at the weekend.
Gerardo Seoane has been head coach of Young Boys since the summer after title-winning boss Adi Hutter joined German side Eintracht Frankfurt. Born to Spanish parents and raised near Lucerne, the former midfielder speaks five languages and arrived at the Stade de Suisse having impressed during his short spell at the helm of Luzern – a club that played a key role in his career. Having started and finished his playing career at the club, Seonae began coaching Luzern’s Under-15s in 2011. The 39-year-old moved up the ranks and was handed the permanent manager’s role in January, when he managed to lead the side from relegation trouble to third spot.
Players to watch
There are not any household names within the Young Boys ranks, but their form, cohesion and talent makes them a threat. Guillaume Hoarau once led the line for Paris St Germain and now, at 34, is flourishing in Bern, where Miralem Sulejmani, formerly of Ajax and Benfica, has impressed. Young midfielder Djibril Sow’s development was rewarded with his Swiss debut in this month’s Nations League thrashing of Iceland, when full-back Kevin Mbabu also made his senior bow. The 23-year-old has got his career back on track since making the permanent switch from Newcastle to Young Boys last year. Sow and Mbabu were unused substitutes at the King Power Stadium last week as Switzerland suffered a 1-0 friendly loss to England.
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