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Old 07-03-2017, 05:29 PM   #19
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Default Re: [EL] FC Rostov V Manchester United

Is Rostov our toughest European away?

Manchester United will be cheered on by 238 ticket-holding fans during Thursday’s Europa League tie against FC Rostov, which emphasises the difficulty of the journey to Russia.

This Round of 16 tie was drawn out of the hat less than two weeks ago on Friday 24 February, and that gave match-going fans very little time to make travel arrangements. Specifically, that included the task of gaining a Russian visa at least seven days before this week's first leg in Eastern Europe.

The tally of 238 is among United's smallest travelling contingents in recent European competition and less than a third of the 900 fans who made the trip to Odessa for this season’s Group A win at Zorya Luhansk.

As recently as the 2015/16 season, some 805 hardy supporters were in attendance for the Champions League draw at CSKA Moscow, while 804 later witnessed the Europa League tie at FC Midtjylland.

United returned to Old Trafford on Saturday following three vintage away days at Ewood Park, Stade Geoffroy-Guichard and Wembley Stadium – and 720 committed Reds made it to every game!

Nick Howard, a 25-year-old supporter from Cheadle Hulme (pictured third from right), was among that devoted group who saw the consecutive wins over Blackburn Rovers in the FA Cup fifth round, Saint-Etienne in the Europa League Round of 32 and, of course, Southampton in the EFL Cup final. He spoke to United Review to reflect on his memorable week of match-going action.

“I have gone home and away for years,” Nick told us. “I've grown up watching us win all sorts of trophies but I can honestly say that was one of my greatest-ever weeks following the Reds.

“Ewood Park was very nostalgic because that was my first-ever away day many years ago, and we obviously won the 19th title there. There was a great atmosphere in the Golden Cup Inn and the noise inside the stadium was great, even with the home fans protesting at the Venky’s ownership.

“We started our journey to France by flying to Paris, taking a train to Lyon and then boarding another to Saint-Etienne. We mixed with local fans and traded football stories, before experiencing one of the best atmospheres of my life. Yes, their flags and chants were choreographed, but there was a real sense of community and they have a great fanbase for a provincial town. I loved it!

“Then there was Wembley, of course. We got the train from Stockport on Sunday morning and later sat in the singing section to see Zlatan win us the cup. Watching us lift a trophy was a reward for all the hard miles! I was physically drained on Monday, with a hoarse voice in meetings, but I had a huge smile after a big week with United. It cost me £1,000 all in, but I’d happily do it all over again.”

Due to the short notice, Nick was unable to organise his trip to Rostov and is envious of his two friends who are travelling this week. "I was extremely jealous when they were telling me about their plans," he says. "I'm gutted I'm not going myself, but the turnaround was too quick. I'm already eyeing up flights for the quarter-finals and the rest of the competition."

If you are among the 238 United fans travelling to Thursday’s game at FC Rostov, then please send us your photos and videos on social media via the hashtag #RedsInRostov. The club's accounts on Twitter and Instagram will share as many as possible with our millions of followers around the world.

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