Group B: MANCHESTER UNITED, PSV Eindhoven, CSKA Moscow, Wolfsburg.
It’s back! The Champions League returns to Old Trafford after a one season absence.
After finishing seventh at the end of the 2013/14 season and seeing Hull City contest the FA Cup Final and taking a Europa League spot, United had a Europe-free year during Louis van Gaal’s first season in charge.
A fourth placed finish was the minimum requirement for the Dutchman, but he delivered, despite a campaign filled with injuries, suspensions, chopping and changing of formations, and plenty of speculation surrounding some big name players.
Finishing fourth appeased the United faithful, but it meant a two-legged play-off come August, where defeat would see all the hard work go out the window, with the losers dropping into the Europa League.
Friday 7 August, the day before the new Premier League season began, saw the play-off round drawn.
United were paired with Club Brugge, after the Belgian side had finished second in their respected league.
A tough opponent, but it meant that United had avoided AS Monaco, Lazio, Rapid Vienna and CSKA Moscow at the same stage, although the latter will be travelling to Old Trafford, as will be touched on later.
A steady yet unspectacular opening couple of league games preceded the first leg at The Theatre of Dreams on Tuesday 18 August, with a 3-1 win to take over to Belgium, after a Memphis brace and Marouane Fellaini’s late header turned the game around after an early Michael Carrick own goal.
Eight days later at the Jan Breydel Stadium, United romped away with a 4-0 victory, with Wayne Rooney’s hat-trick and Ander Herrera confirming the club’s place in this season’s competition.
And thus the draw took place, at around 5pm BST on Thursday 27 August in Monaco.
As mentioned, CSKA Moscow of Russia were drawn alongside United in Group B as a third seed, after Dutch Champions PSV Eindhoven were drawn as top seed, as they are the current title holders of one of Europe’s top eight leagues.
This means a reunion for Memphis, after his £25m move during the summer, as well as the boss and Daley Blind returning to their homeland.
German side Wolfsburg completed the draw, as United’s group consists of two sides that joined them at the same stage in the 2009/10 season.
That season saw Ryan Giggs and Michael Carrick secure a 2-1 comeback win at home to Wolfsburg, as a Michael Owen hat-trick on the final matchday secured top spot for United in a 3-1 victory.
Antonio Valencia scored a late winner at the Luzhniki Stadium to obtain the three points away at CSKA, a ground where United beat rivals Chelsea on penalties in 2008, when they won their third and most recent Champions League crown.
An enthralling 3-3 draw in the reverse fixture at Old Trafford saw Owen, Paul Scholes and Valencia score, despite trailing 3-1 with seven minutes remaining.
You have to go back to September and October of the year 2000 for the last time United and PSV faced off, with 3-1 wins for the home side the outcome of both group games, with Scholes scoring United’s goal at the Philips Stadion, before Scholes and Dwight Yorke scored within the final 10 minutes at Old Trafford to secure the win, after Teddy Sheringham had opened the scoring.
The group stage will commence on Tuesday 15 September, with a trip to Eindhoven to face PSV.
Wolfsburg will be the visitors to Old Trafford on Wednesday 30 September, before a trip to Moscow that will rekindle fond memories, as CSKA will host United on Wednesday 21 October, albeit at the Arena Khimki, a ground currently shared with rivals Dynamo Moscow, used since 2010, as they await the completion of their own new stadium.
The reserve fixture against CSKA will be played on Tuesday 3 November, with PSV also visiting the Northwest on Wednesday 25 November.
Just like in 2009, United will finish their group campaign at the Volkswagen Stadium to take on Wolfsburg, on Tuesday 8 December.
There is nothing quite like a European night at Old Trafford, and it is just two-and-a-half weeks to go before United are back in club football’s biggest competition.