Football: United join the high rollers in quest for European glory
Glenn Moore is Football Editor for The Independent and a Uefa B licence holder. Glenn has worked for the Independent newspapers since 1993, initially as cricket correspondent of the Independent on Sunday, subsequently as football correspondent of The Independent before becoming football editor in 2004.
Thursday 18 December 1997
There is something appropriate about Manchester United being sent to Monte Carlo. England's wealthiest club has always seen itself among the game's high rollers.
Gambling, however, will not be on Alex Ferguson's agenda when United visit the Riviera on 4 March. A solid performance against Monaco will be his aim after United were paired yesterday with the French champions in the last eight of the Champions' League.
The other English representatives, Chelsea in the European Cup-Winners' Cup and Aston Villa in the Uefa Cup, were given equally wealthy Spanish opposition.
Chelsea play Real Betis, the club who have paid pounds 21.5m for the right to sign the Brazilian Denilson next season, while Villa meet Atletico Madrid, Leicester's conquerors and now home to Juninho. All three English clubs are away in their first leg. United and Chelsea are favourites for their respective competitions, with 170-1 being offered on a clean sweep.
United will be pleased to avoid the Germans teams Bayern Munich and Borussia Dortmund, who have been paired together, Real Madrid, who face Bayer Leverkusen, and Dynamo Kiev, who meet Juventus. Monaco will, however, need to be respected. They may be watched by barely 10,000 fans, but the Grimaldi family fortune has enabled them to gain three French titles in 15 years, with a fourth in sight.
They lead the French league and tomorrow seek a record-equalling eighth successive league win. They have Fabien Barthez, the French No 1, in goal and John Collins of Scotland in midfield, but it is their forward line that catches the eye. Jean Tigana can choose from Nigeria's Victor Ikpeba, Thierry Henry, whose pace destroyed Newcastle in last season's Uefa Cup, and David Trezeguet, their new striking hope of French football.
Trezeguet is 20 years old, French-born and Argentine-raised. His Argentine father moved back to South America after playing in France but returned to Europe when Trezeguet was 17 to help his son's career. Paris St Germain rejected him after a two-week trial but Tigana needed less than an hour to be convinced.
Trezeguet is now seen as the latest candidate to provide the cutting edge the national team is missing. A confident player, he will welcome the chance to prove himself against United.
His club were less bullish. Their sports director, Henri Biancheri, said: "I think we've drawn the one club we didn't want to play, but we did not want Newcastle and we beat them so perhaps we can do the same. English clubs are always hard to overcome, but we must not be intimidated."
Martin Edwards, the United chairman, said: "Monaco are one of the two or three teams we would have picked if we had been given a choice. We are pleased."
With the World Cup just months away the tie will be closely watched by English and French police. Biancheri said: "Last year about 5,000 Newcastle fans came and there was no trouble."
Chelsea will be equally anxious about their trip to Spain following problems during their 1995 tie away to Real Zaragoza. On the pitch the match should be closely contested. Betis, who play in Seville, have Finidi George of Nigeria, Jarni of Croatia and the prolific striker Alfonso.
Real Betis said, like Monaco, that Chelsea were the team they wanted to avoid, but Villa held no such fears for Atletico. "It is a hard draw," Brian Little, the Villa manager, admitted. Remembering Garry Parker's bizarre sending off in Atletico's victory over Leicester, he will hope the refereeing is up to scratch. Elsewhere there is a rematch of last year's final between Schalke 04, the holders, and Internazionale.
Bayer Leverkusen (Ger) v Real Madrid (Sp)
Juventus (It) v Dynamo Kiev (Ukr)
Bayern Munich (Ger) v Borussia Dortmund (Ger)
Monaco (Fr) v Manchester United
(First leg March 4; Second leg March 18)
Roda JC Kerkrade (Neth) v Vicenza (It)
Slavia Prague (Cz Rep) v VfB Stuttgart (Ger)
AEK Athens (Gr) v Lokomotiv Moscow (Rus)
Real Betis (Sp) v Chelsea
(First leg March 5; Second leg March 19)
Ajax Amsterdam (Neth) v Spartak Moscow (Rus)
Internazionale (It) v Schalke O4 (Ger)
Lazio (It) v Auxerre (Fr)
Atletico Madrid (Sp) v Aston Villa
(First leg March 3; Second leg March 17)
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