Football: Draw does United no favours

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The Independent Online
MANCHESTER UNITED'S draw in the Champions' League has given them the chance to avenge a black night in their European history.

United open their Group D fixtures against Barcelona at Old Trafford on 16 September, while they must also face Bayern Munich and Peter Schmeichel's former club, Brondby.

With only the winners from the six groups and the two best runners-up qualifying, United have been drawn in a seriously tough group. Their manager, Alex Ferguson, had feared they would be handed such a draw because they had qualified through the preliminary round - and so it turned out.

United start against the Spanish champions, Barcelona, who humiliated them 4-0 in a Champions' League group match at the Nou Camp in 1994. They have never played Bayern Munich, who finished second in Germany's Bundesliga, in Europe before.

Brondby won the Danish title and Cup last season, but United will feel confident after beating them 6-0 in a pre-season friendly.

Arsene Wenger will go back to his native France to start Arsenal's Champions' League challenge against Lens next month. As well as the French champions, the Double-winners face the Ukrainian title-holders, Dynamo Kiev, and the Greek League runners-up, Panathinaikos.

Wenger, the Arsenal manager, said: "Dynamo Kiev are the most experienced team in the group as far as Europe is concerned. They should have got through to the quarter-finals in the Champions' Cup last season, but lost out to Juventus right at the end."

Kiev and Panathinaikos are so distant that Arsenal's Dutch striker, Dennis Bergkamp, will not be available for the away games against them, because of his refusal to travel by air.

CHAMPIONS' LEAGUE FIXTURES (GB clubs only): 16 Sept: Manchester Utd v Barcelona, Lens v Arsenal. 30 Sept: Bayern Munich v Manchester Utd, Arsenal v Panathinaikos. 21 Oct: Brondby v Manchester Utd; Arsenal v Dynamo Kiev. 4 Nov: Manchester Utd v Brondby, Dynamo Kiev v Arsenal. 25 Nov: Barcelona v Manchester Utd, Arsenal v Lens. 9 Dec: Manchester Utd v Bayern Munich, Panathinaikos v Arsenal.

CHAMPIONS' LEAGUE DRAW

GROUP A

Ajax (Neth)

Porto (Por)

Olympiakos Piraeus (Gr)

Croatia Zagreb

GROUP B

Galatasaray (Turk)

Athletic Bilbao (Sp)

Rosenborg Trondheim (Nor)

Juventus (It)

GROUP C

Spartak Moscow (Rus)

Real Madrid (Sp)

Internazionale (It)

Sturm Graz (Aut)

GROUP D

Barcelona (Sp)

Brondby (Den)

Bayern Munich (Ger)

Manchester United

GROUP E

Dynamo Kiev (Ukr)

Lens (Fr)

Arsenal

Panathinaikos (Gr)

GROUP F

Benfica (Por)

PSV Eindhoven (Neth)

HJK Helsinki (Fin)

Kaiserslautern (Ger)

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