Team-by-team guide to the sides that make up Group A in this season's Champions League...
Manchester United is one of the most successful football clubs in history with 20 domestic titles (Achieving the 20 last season). However, in comparison to their European rivals their return in the Champions League is rather less. United have won the competition three times, but have faced numerous disappointments in recent seasons having lost to Barcelona in the final in both 2009 & 2011. Last season, United were knocked out by Jose Mourinho’s Real Madrid after a controversial red card for Nani. David Moyes will make only his second appearance in the competition after failing to reach the group stage with Everton in 2006.
Key player – Robin Van Persie (Netherlands): Van Persie is an extremely technically gifted striker and has one of the best left foots in football. Van Persie scored 30 goals in all competitions last season, which helped United to their 20 league title. This season, Van Persie already has four goals to his name.
Manager – David Moyes: The Scot is yet to win his first major honour as a football manager. However, he was handpicked by Sir Alex Ferguson to take over the reins at Old Trafford.
Champions League best finish: Champions; 1968, 1999 & 2008
Did you know? Manchester United became the first sports team in the world to be valued at $3 billion
Shakhtar will be extremely pleased with their coefficient score this season which could see them gain a favourable draw in this year’s group stage. Last season the Ukrainian side achieved a domestic treble with the Ukrainian league, cup and super cup. Unfortunately, the club lost its star player and top scorer (25 goals) in Henrikh Mkhitaryan to German giants Borussia Dortmund as well as Fernandinho to Manchester City for £30million. However, Shaktar have replaced them with new signings Bernard, Fred, Wellington Nem and Fernando. Donetsk will be looking to improve on their Round of 16 place from last term.
Key player – Fred (Brazil): Fred is a towering centre forward, who is extremely dominant in the air. Since moving back to his native Brazil, the former Lyon forward has been reinstalled into the Brazil national team and helped his national team to victory in the 2013 Confederations cup. As a result, Fred earned a move to Ukrainian big spenders Shakhtar.
Manager – Mircea Lucescu (Romania): Lucescu is a two time Romanian league winner, and three time Romanian Cup winner with Dinamo Bucureşti and Rapid Bucureşti. Lucescu won The Turkish league twice, once with Galataseray and once with Beşiktaş. Since 2004 at Shaktar, Lucescu has won the league title seven times, the Ukrainian cup five times and the UEFA cup once.
Champions League best finish: Quarter Finals; 2011
Did you know? Shaktar moved into a new stadium, the Donbass Arena in 2009 that holds 51,504.
Bayer Leverkusen are another product of the excellent Bundesliga. Last season the league showcased two teams in the final and Leverkusen will be hoping that they can replicate the achievements of their domestic rivals. Leverkusen came third in the Bundesliga last term, but they will face the Champions League without star player Andrea Shurrle following his move to Chelsea this summer. Leverkusen qualified for the tournament as a result of placing third in the German league.
Key player – Stefan Kießling (Germany): Kießling is a towering centre forward and scored 27 goals in all competitions last season. Following the loss of Andrea Shurrle he will need to replicate the same form this term.
Manager – Sami Hyypiä (Finland): Hyypiä is best known for his football career at Liverpool I which he won the 2005 Champions League. As a manager, he is yet to win his first major honour and will be looking to build on a strong first season in which Leverkusen finished third.
Champions League best finish: Runners-up: 2002
Did you know? Leverkusen vice-captain Lars Bender has a twin brother, Sven who plays for German side Borussia Dortmund.
Sociedad enjoyed an excellent run of form in La Liga last year to earn the fourth placed qualifying position for this years competition. Although they came through in excellent fashion against French giants 4-0 on aggregate in the qualifiers, the loss of star man Assier Illarramendi to Real Madrid will be a huge blow.
Key Player – Jagoba Arrasate (Spain): Arrasate has risen through the ranks at Sociedad to be become the manager. The highlight of his career so far is achieving Champions League qualification last term.
Manager – Carlos Vela (Mexico): The young Mexican striker never quite flourished in England with Arsenal but is extremely skilfull and has an eye for the flamboyant.
Champions League best finish: Semi Finals: 1983
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