Tuesday option for Europa ties
Games in the competition are usually held on a Thursday night but the fact that United and City both dropped out of the Champions League on Wednesday has created a problem for UEFA.
UEFA have confirmed that both United and City will be seeded for the last 32 of the Europa League, meaning under normal circumstances they would both play their home games in the second leg.
However, competition regulations prevent any teams within a 31-mile radius of each other playing on the same day.
Effectively, this means either United or City will have to move from Thursday night or have their fixture reversed, thus losing the perceived advantage of a home second leg.
The complication over kick-offs arises because UEFA are reluctant to sanction any non-Champions League game for the same time as matches in their number one club competition.
As two last-16 first-leg ties will be scheduled for both Tuesday, 21st February and Wednesday 22nd in the week when those Europa League second-leg encounters are scheduled, it means any switched game would probably have to take place earlier in the evening even if the Premier League’s remaining two representatives, Arsenal and Chelsea, were not in action.
It is the same fate that befell Everton two years ago when they had a clash with Liverpool and were eventually ordered to play Sporting Lisbon on the Tuesday, with a 5.45pm kick-off.
However, as that was a first-leg game and both City and United should be playing second-leg matches, with the potential for extra-time and penalties, UEFA may demand an earlier start time to preserve the Champions League’s exclusivity.
At the time, Toffees manager David Moyes complained there was no scope for merely switching the fixture round, although this is one of the options open to the competitions’ committee when it makes its final decision ahead of next Friday’s draw.
UEFA have also confirmed that clubs from the same country will be able to meet in the last 16, raising the prospect of both Manchester sides being drawn together, as they have been in the FA Cup third round.
Stoke and Fulham, who seem set to progress through the more conventional route, will also note the possibility of inflicting additional misery on a big-name Premier League foe who suddenly find themselves scrambling about with Europe’s lesser lights.
The precise list of clubs United and City could be paired with will not be known until the final round of Europa League group matches are concluded next Wednesday and Thursday.