Football: United begin campaign in Puskas land: Reds drawn to Honved

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The Independent Online
HONVED, the former Hungarian Army club who gave the world Ferenc Puskas, will provide evocative, though far from insurmountable, opposition for Manchester United on their return to the European Cup in September.

For the other 16 British and Irish clubs in the three continental competitions, the draw in Geneva was neatly summed up by Tony Willcox, the manager of Cwmbran Town. After the inaugural League of Wales champions were paired with Cork City in the preliminary round, he said: 'We'd have preferred a bigger name, but we've got a chance to progress.'

There was no sense of anticlimax among the Old Trafford delegation, who have waited 24 years since United's last tie in the competition with which their fortunes were once intertwined; 25 since they beat Benfica at Wembley. 'Honved are a club with a great tradition, and this should capture the imagination of our supporters,' Martin Edwards, United's chief executive, said.

Based in Budapest and managed by a Finn, Martti Kuusela, Honved play a friendly at Millwall on 8 August. They also visited England in February, losing 2-1 at Woking. In their last European Cup outing, two years ago, they went down 4-3 on aggregate to Sampdoria, the eventual finalists, in the second round.

Rangers, still hoping to contest a re-match of last season's final with Milan in view of Marseille's alleged corruption, should advance towards the lucrative Champions' League stage again at the expense of Levski Sofia. Marseille were included in the draw, pending the outcome of police investigations, and meet AEK Athens.

In the Uefa Cup, Aston Villa face Slovan Bratislava, of Slovakia, where the former Villa manager Jo Venglos is the new national team manager. Slovan were the first Iron Curtain club to lift a major trophy when they won the Cup-Winners' Cup in 1969. 'Their record is fantastic,' Doug Ellis, the Villa chairman, warned. 'We've got the hardest draw of any English team.'

Villa, who put out Czechoslovak opposition in Banik Ostrava in 1991 during Venglos's brief tenure, have the additional worry of Slovan's recent history of crowd trouble. At their match against Ferencvaros last autumn, masked army commandos fought Hungarian fans, prompting Uefa to fine both clubs pounds 7,000.

Norwich's chairman, Sir Robert Chase, was happier with his club's first-ever European tie, against the Dutch club Vitesse Arnhem. 'It's a nice place, a famous city, and easy for us to get to,' he enthused.

Vitesse's line-up includes Hans Gillhaus, once of Aberdeen, and Andrei Piatnitski, one of Liverpool's tormentors with Moscow Spartak last season.

Ironically, one of the most attractive ties went to Heart of Midlothian, who drew Atletico Madrid in the Uefa Cup after being called in as last- minute replacements for a Polish club banned after a match-fixing scandal. Whatever happens, the meeting of the rival owners, Wallace Mercer and Jesus Gil, should be something else.