Manchester United are just two games away from returning to the UEFA Champions League after a season away, and they aim to lift the trophy in May.
Due to David Moyes’ disastrous campaign in charge of the Old Trafford club, when they finished seventh place in the Premier League in 2013/14, there was no European football for the red half of Manchester to enjoy last season. Under the leadership of Louis van Gaal matters improved last term, with a fourth-place finish giving them entry to the Champions League playoff.
The likes of Italian side Lazio and emerging French outfit Monaco awaited the draw on Friday morning, so United will be relatively pleased to have been paired with the lesser threat of Club Brugge. The Belgian side, who were beaten finalists to Liverpool in 1978, finished second in their league last term, and should prove a comfortable first challenge for van Gaal and co.
“We’re absolutely delighted to be back in the competition,” said club secretary John Alexander after the draw was made. “We’re back where we want to be. “Belgian football is right at the very top and we have two Belgian players in the squad who keep us abreast of what’s going on there. We go into any game with confidence. We’d like to think we can win the competition.”
United have won the competition three times in the past: in 1968 they defeated Benfica at Wembley Stadium, in 1999 they beat Bayern Munich in the most dramatic of circumstances to clinch the treble at the Nou Camp, and in the Moscow rain in 2008 they got the better of Chelsea in a penalty shootout. Should they go all the way this time, they will play in Milan on 28 May.
Lazio have been handed a potentially tricky tie against German side Bayer Leverkusen, whilst Monaco have an even bigger challenge as they take on Spanish side Valencia. Celtic will fancy their chances of making the group stage after being pitted with Swedish side Malmo, runners-up in 1979, and another intriguing clash sees Sporting Lisbon face CSKA Moscow.