After 17 consecutive years of involvement in the competition, Manchester United fans can be forgiven for seeing the Champions League as standard procedure. United have a rich history when it comes to the Champions League, formally known as the European Cup.
Manchester United ran out winners in 1968, 1999 and 2008, have been as far as the quarter finals five times, semi-finals seven times and runners up in 2009.
With all the previous pedigree at Old Trafford, it could easily be argued that the club should have won the competition more than three times. But, over the years, United have at least proven they are one with Europe’s elite and are feared just as much as Real Madrid, Inter Milan and Barcelona.
Thursday saw the draw made for the 2010-2011 group stage, which pitted United against Valencia, Rangers and newcomers to the competition Bursaspor. Avoiding the likes of Real Madrid, Ajax and Werder Bremen instantly marks a bonus for Ferguson's men.
Confidence should be high that United can at least get the desired three wins and a draw (10 points) needed to qualify from Group C. Valencia will be the toughest opponents, but they will be going through something of a transitional period after losing two of their biggest names in the form of David Villa and David Silva.
Rangers’ dominance in the Scottish league, whilst commendable, does not strike fear into the hearts of the Red Devils and the one to be weary of is the unknown Bursaspor, aka the green crocodiles.
Beşiktaş showed last year that no team can be under-estimated, particularly those with little introduction in England. They beat United 1-0 at Old Trafford.
Manchester United were already very familiar with the European competition by the time Bursaspor formed in 1963. Their most successful campaign in Europe came in 1974-75 when they were knocked out of the European Cup Winners Cup at the quarter final stage by eventual winners Dynamo Kyiv.
United have competed against Valencia and Glasgow Rangers on a few occasions, and in this day and age Scottish and Spanish football are easily accessible and have various links with the club.
Bursaspor will be relishing the opportunity to face United, and if they fail to do anything right over the two games you’re guaranteed the one thing they will do is enjoy the occasions.
One thing for sure is it’s as good as a draw in Group C as Manchester United could have hoped for, and there are bound to be some thrilling encounters along the way.
Last year the Champions League campaign for United didn’t seem to get out of second gear until the encounter with AC Milan, but this year United will still need to be on guard from the start in order to make it through to the knock-out stage.
*Disclaimer: The views in this article are that of the writer and may not replicate those of the Professional Footballers' Association.
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