Manchester United will face Valencia, Rangers and Bursaspor in the group stages of the 2010/11 Champions League after the draw took place in Monaca on Thursday evening.
After a lengthy preamble, Man United were the first team to be pulled out of pot one by Inter Milan and winner of Club goalkeeper of the year Julio Cesar (other nominees included Hugo Lloris of Lyon and Victor Víctor Valdés of Barcelona). Due to Wembley hosting this season’s final, former England International Gary Lineker was involved in the draw process as he allocated the group each club was placed. United were placed in group C.
Maicon, Club Defender of the Season (other nominees included Lúcio of Inter and Gerard Piqué of Barcelona) was asked to draw teams from pot two. Spanish club Valencia was the first team picked by the Brazilian full back and Lineker followed suit by drawing group C.
Valencia finished third in the 2009/10 season. In the all time La Liga table Valencia are third behind Real Madrid and Barcelona. They have twice been Champions League runners up in 2000 (losing 3-0 to Real Madrid) and 2001 (losing 5-4 on penalties to Bayern Munich). Los Che did not participate in last season’s competition as they failed to qualify. Instead Valencia took part in the inaugural Europa League and were beaten by eventual winners Atlético Madrid at the Quarter Final stage.
With group C starting to take shape Wesley Sneijder was asked to draw teams from pot three. Scottish club Glasgow Rangers and group C were once again the first combination to be drawn. Sneijder beat off competition from Xavier Hernández and Arjen Robben to claim Club Midfielder of the season.
Glasgow Rangers are current Scottish Champions and were the first British club to appear in the Champions League after defeating Leeds United. In last season’s competition Rangers failed to win a game and managed only two points featuring in Group G alongside Sevilla, Stuttgart and Unirea Urziceni. In ten years (two stints) Walter Smith has lead Rangers to nine Scottish Premier League titles, five Scottish Cups and five Scottish League Cups.
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer made a pleasant appearance to announce the winner of Club Forward of Season. After scoring two goals in the final last season, Diego Milito was unsurprisingly the winner, with our own Wayne Rooney and Messi of Barcelona missing out. For a change Group C was second out of the pot with Turkish club Bursaspor taking the final spot.
Bursaspor are a relatively new club having only been formed in 1963. Bursaspor won their first league title last season (finishing one point ahead of Fenerbahçe) becoming only the second club outside of Istanbul to claim the Turkish league title. This is their first participation in Champions League football. Previous European history includes competing for the Cup Winners’ Cup in the 1974-74 and 1986-86 seasons.
Overall, Sir Alex will be happy with draw. Valencia are weaker with the departures of Villa and Silva, although it would be foolish to write them off completely with Juan Mata and Banega in their ranks. I’m guessing Greater Manchester Police gave out a collective groan when Rangers were drawn in same group. Who can forget the hoards of Rangers fans running riot after their defeat to Zenit St. Petersburg in the UEFA cup final in 2008. The fixtures will be a tasty combative affair with perhaps a British football feel rather than a typical Champions League night. Sir Alex will fancy his team’s chances at victory at Old Trafford and Ibrox. Bursaspor will be a tough hostile away trip. When United draw a Turkish team the thought of Eric Cantona and Bryan Robson both being hit in the tunnel springs to mind. We encountered Besiktas last season and won thanks to a late Paul Scholes goal, so the trip will hold less fear for the lads.
14 Sep – Rangers (H)
29 Sep – Valencia (A)
20 Oct – Bursaspor (H)
2 Nov – Bursaspor (A)
24 Nov – Rangers (A)
7 Dec – Valencia (H)
Everton (A) – Rangers (H) – Liverpool (H)
Bolton (A) – Valencia (A) – Sunderland (A)
WBA (H) – Bursaspor (H) – Stoke (A)
Tottenham (H) – Bursaspor (A) – Wolves (H)
Wigan (H) – Rangers (A) – Blackburn (H)
Blackpool (A) – Valencia (H) – Arsenal (H) – Chelsea (A)
Fixtures have fallen relatively kindly for United. Facing Rangers at home is ideal when sandwiched in between two tough fixtures. Three away games against Bolton, Valencia and Sunderland will be tough. Hopefully we will have qualified by the time we play Valencia at home, allowing senior players to rest and younger players gain Champions League experience, before two big games against Arsenal and Chelsea.
If you wish to discuss this issue further with myself or other members of the Stretford End Arising community, you can do so in the Forum