Manchester United line up for their third Europa League group game tonight against Omonia Nicosia, and a familiar face to British viewers will be sitting in the opposition dugout.
Former Celtic, Hibs and Bolton manager Neil Lennon is in charge of the Cypriot side and is eager to upset Manchester United in tonight’s game.
He told the Daily recording (opens in a new tab) “We’re all very excited to be playing at Manchester United for a number of reasons, obviously because they’re one of the biggest clubs in the world. It’s going to be a great experience for my players and some of them. ‘among them are Manchester United supporters.
“They are huge in the world so we welcome them here. However, we want to compete and get something out of the game. They have beaten Liverpool and Arsenal recently and they seem to have coped with a bad start and they have leveled off. The boat.
“But every team is beatable any day, so we have to believe we can win. We have to strive to get something out of the game to make it into the group.”
After leaving Celtic for the second time in February 2021, with the club miles away from Rangers in the Scottish Premiership, Lennon took a year off from working in football. In March 2022, however, he returned, this time with Omonia Nicosia, to replace three-time Premier League winner Henning Berg.
Lennon helped the club win the Cypriot Cup in May, beating Ethnikos Achna on penalties in the final, leading to their qualification for the Europa League. During the summer, the Northern Irishman then proceeded to recruit three British players with whom he had already worked: striker Gary Hooper (Celtic), full-back Adam Matthew (Celtic) and winger Brandon Barker (Hibs).
Hooper joined Omonia from New Zealand side Wellington Phoenix, while Matthews recently plied his trade in Ligue 1 with Charlton Athletic. Barker, formerly of Manchester City, arrived in Cyprus from Reading.
The wonderfully named Charalambos Charalambous also played in Arsenal’s youth team, before turning professional with Omonia Nicosia in 2018, while former Blackburn player Matt Derbyshire played in Cyprus for four years, scoring 62 goals for Me Basilissa.
Omonia Nicosia are without a point on the board after the first two rounds of Europa League fixtures, losing 3-0 to Sheriff Tiraspol and 2-1 to Real Sociedad. However, the team will host the likes of Cristiano Ronaldo, Bruno Fernandes and Raphael Varane at their 22,859 capacity GSP stadium, looking to cause an upset with Neil Lennon in charge.
Indeed, Manchester United have already played at the stadium, in the 2002-03 Champions League group stage against Maccabi Haifa, with the match to be played on neutral ground. United were embarrassed that night 3-0 down and will want to make sure a repeat of events doesn’t happen again.
Although Lennon was never successful against Manchester United, he was part of a Celtic side that beat them in the 2006/07 Champions League group stage at Parkhead.