Yesterday's draw for the mini- league group stages of the Champions' League put United in Group One (one of four) alongside the Spanish champions plus the winners of two preliminary-round ties: Avenir Beggen, of Luxembourg, or Galatasaray and Sparta Prague or Sweden's IFK Gothenburg.
Rangers, who were not seeded, must play in the preliminary round. The Scottish title winners travel to AEK Athens on 10 August, with the return leg at Ibrox on 24 August. If they overcome the Greeks, Walter Smith's men face a challenging task in Group Four of the Champions' League against the holders, Milan, Ajax and Maccabi Haifa of Israel or the Austrians, Casino Salzburg.
United's first Champions' League fixture will be at home to IFK Gothenburg or Sparta Prague on 14 September. Their next, assuming Galatasaray beat Beggen, will be in Istanbul a fortnight later.
After a 3-3 draw at Old Trafford in the first leg of last season's second-round tie, the Turks knocked United out of the European Cup on the away-goals rule after a 0-0 draw in a stormy second-leg tie, when Eric Cantona was shown a red card after the final whistle. The Frenchman will be suspended from the first four games of United's European campaign, and will miss both matches against Barcelona, last term's beaten finalists.
'It's going to be a difficult trip, if we have to go there (Istanbul),' United's manager, Alex Ferguson, said. 'But we will be better prepared than last season.' The top two teams from each group proceed to the quarter-finals.
In the Uefa Cup preliminary round next month, Aberdeen will face the Latvian champions, Skonto Riga, while the first competitive game for the new Motherwell manager, Alex McLeish, will be against HB Torshavn, from the Faroe Isles, at Fir Park on 9 August.
Wales, for the first time, have three clubs in Europe. Bangor City, the Konica League champions, have a decent chance of progress against IA Akranes, from Iceland, in the Uefa Cup, but Inter Cardiff have a tough task against the Poles, GKS Katowice. In the Cup-Winners' Cup, Barry Town face Zhalgiris Vilnius of Lithuania.
EUROPEAN CUP DRAWS
EUROPEAN CHAMPIONS' LEAGUE Group One: * Manchester United, * Barcelona, Avenir Beggen (Lux) or Galatasaray (Turk), Sparta Prague (Cz Rep) or IFK Gothenburg (Swe). Group Two: * Bayern Munich, * Spartak Moscow, Silkeborg (Den) or Dynamo Kiev (Ukr), Paris St-Germain or VAC Samsung (Hung). Group Three: * Benfica (Por), * Anderlecht (Bel), Steaua Bucharest (Rom) or Servette (Swit), Legia Warsaw or Hajduk Split (Croa). Group Four: * Milan (It), * Ajax (Neth), Maccabi Haifa (Isr) or Casino Salzburg (Aut), AEK Athens or Rangers.
* denotes seeded club.
CHAMPIONS' LEAGUE Selected fixtures: Manchester United: 14 Sept: Sparta Prague or IFK Gothenburg (H). 28 Sept: Avenir Beggen or Galatasaray (A). 19 Oct: Barcelona (H). 2 Nov: Barcelona (A). 23 Nov: Sparta Prague or IFK Gothenburg (A). 7 Dec: Avenir Beggen or Galatasaray (H). Rangers (if they beat AEK Athens): 14 Sept: Maccabi Haifa or Casino Salzburg (A). 28 Sept: Ajax (H). 19 Oct: Milan (H). 2 Nov: Milan (A). 23 Nov: Maccabi Haifa or Casino Salzburg (H). 7 Dec: Ajax (A).
EUROPEAN CUP Preliminary round: Paris St-Germain v VAC Samsung (Hung); Legia Warsaw (Pol) v Hajduk Split (Croa); Steaua Bucharest (Rom) v Servette (Swit); Sparta Prague (Cz Rep) v IFK Gothenburg (Swe); AEK Athens v Rangers; Maccabi Haifa (Isr) v Casino Salzburg (Aut); Silkeborg (Den) v Dynamo Kiev (Ukr); Avenir Beggen (Lux) v Galatasaray (Turk). First-leg ties Wed 10 Aug; second leg Wed 24 Aug.
EUROPEAN CUP-WINNERS' CUP Preliminary round: Pirin Blagoevgrad (Bul) v Schaan (Liech); Norma Tallinn (Est) v Maribor Branik (Sloven); Fandok Bobruisk (Bela) v SK Tirana (Alb); Tiligul Tiraspol (Mol) v Omonia Nicosia (Cyp); Ferencvaros (Hung) v F91 Dudelange (Lux); Floriana (Malta) v Sligo Rovers (Irl); Barry Town (Wal) v Zhalgiris Vilnius (Lith); Bodo / Glimt (Nor) v Olimpija Riga (Lat); Viktoria Zizkov (Cz Rep) v IFK Norrkoping (Swe); SI Sandoyar (Faroe) v HJK Helsinki (Fin); IBK Keflavik (Ice) v Maccabi Tel Aviv (Isr); Bangor (N Irl) v Tatran Presov (Slovak). First-leg ties Thu 11 Aug; second leg Thu 25 Aug.
UEFA CUP Preliminary round: Slavia Prague (Cz Rep) v Cork City (Irl); Motherwell v HB Torshavn (Faroe); FC Copenhagen (Den) v FC Jazz (Fin); Portadown (N Irl) v Slovan Bratislava (Slovak); Bangor City (Wal) v IA Akranes (Ice); MyPa Anjalankoski (Fin) v Inter Bratislava (Slovak); Odense (Den) v Flora Tallinn (Est); Lillestrom (Nor) v Shakhtyor Donetsk (Ukr); GI Gotu (FI) v Trelleborg (Swe); Gornik Zabrze (Pol) v Shamrock Rovers (Irl); Romar Mazeikiai (Lith) v AIK Solna (Swe); FH Hafnarfjordur (Ice) v Linfield (N Irl); Skonto Riga (Lat) v Aberdeen; Inter Cardiff v GKS Katowice (Pol); Rosenborg Trondheim (Nor) v CS Grevenmacher (Lux); Aarau (Swit) v Mura Murska Sobota (Sloven); Anorthosis Famagusta (Cyp) v Shumen (Bul); Dinamo Tbilisi (Geor) v Universitatea Craiova (Rom); Vardar Skopje (Maced) v Bekescsaba (Hung); Olimpija Ljubljana (Sloven) v Levski Sofia (Bul); Fenerbahce (Turk) v Touran (Azer); Valletta (Malta) v Rapid Bucharest (Rom); Kispest Honved (Hung) v Zimbrul Chisinau (Mol); Ararat Erevan (Arm) v CSKA Sofia (Bul); Dinamo Minsk (Bel) v Hibernians (Malta); Teuta (Alb) v Apollon Limassol (Cyp); Aris Salonika (Gr) v Hapoel Beer Sheva (Isr). First-leg ties Tue 9 Aug; second leg Tue 23 Aug.Reuse content