Manchester United's best, worst and dream draws on their return to the Champions League


We’re nearing the end of August, which can only mean a certain prestigious club competition is just around the corner. The UEFA Champions League is weeks away from returning to our TV screens, starting with the group stages.

The draw is scheduled to take place on Thursday 24th August at 5pm BST in Monaco, So, why not look at what would be the best, worst and dream outcome for Manchester United in their return among the elite?

 

Best scenario

Most sides filling up the eight groups are deemed to be Europe’s finest but there are always inexperienced outfits that make proceeding to the knock-out phase that little bit simpler. United have been relatively fortunate in previous years to be drawn with teams like PSV and Real Sociedad, so José Mourinho will be hoping for similar fortune this time around.

The Reds are in pot 2, meaning tough opposition including Barcelona, Atlético Madrid and Paris-Saint Germain will definitely be avoided until at least the Round of 16. There are no easy sides to face from pot 1, with it containing last season’s champions, but in terms of quality and travel, Primeira League holders SL Benfica appear to be the most inviting option.

Russian and Ukrainian champions Spartak Moscow and Shakhtar Donetsk would be beatable, but trips to the East are always daunting. Pot 3 offers threats like AS Roma and a hostile visit to Besiktas FK, however, RSC Anderlecht were undone on the road to UEFA Europa League glory last term, so a stronger United would be silly not to fancy their chances.

The final pot will be full of play-off victors with Celtic, CSKA Moscow and Qarabag FK on the verge of qualification, especially the former after a 5-0 first leg throttling of Astana. Feyenoord and RB Leipzig are already confirmed but Cypriots APOEL Nicosia should be there for the taking if they can hold on to their 2-0 play-off advantage at Slavia Prague.

Best scenario: SL Benfica, Manchester United, RSC Anderlecht, APOEL Nicosia

 

Worst scenario

It will be argued that back-to-back winners Real Madrid need to be avoided at all costs in pot 1, but Bayern Munich are rightly being touted as favourites by many to lift the coveted trophy come May. Carlo Ancelotti’s men have only strengthened over the close season and will be hungry to improve on the disappointing quarter-final exit last season.

 

Niklas Süle and Corentin Tolisso add extra energy to the spine of the Germans, while any team with Lewandowski leading the line are worth betting on. You’d also want to stay clear of last term’s finalists Juventus and the exciting AS Monaco, but after watching what Bayern did to Arsenal at the start of 2017, playing at the Allianz Arena isn’t appealing one bit. 

Aside from AS Roma and Besiktas FK, there are other dangerous outfits in the third pot, like FC Basel, who knocked the Reds out in 2011/12, and I Giallarossi’s Serie A counterparts Napoli. However, even though they aren’t the strongest of teams, travelling to Turkey in order to face the intimidating Süper Lig champions wouldn’t exactly be an easy ride.

The fact that this is RB Leipzig’s inaugural Champions League appearance will explain why they’ve been put in pot 4, despite finishing second in last season’s Bundesliga. Even with the horrendous air miles in mind when thinking about FC Qarabag and Steaua Bucharest, Leipzig have enough quality to cause any top team problems when they want.

Worst scenario: Bayern Munich, Manchester United, Besiktas FK, RB Leipzig

 

Dream scenario

As well as the best and worst possible outcomes, supporters always have the temptation to come up with their dream group stage rivals. It’s not exactly about the teams that’d give you the best chance of advancing but instead the matches you want to see take place at such an early stage in the competition.

Real Madrid are the best around and you’d be crazy to want to face them but there’s not many ties much bigger in football than Los Blancos versus Manchester United. Zidane’s side have already toppled the Reds this season – in the UEFA Super Cup – so José Mourinho will be wanting revenge in what would be a colossal contest.

Last season’s Serie A runners up by just four points, AS Roma are luckless to be in pot 3 instead of pot 2 but that leaves a chance of a potential clash with United. The three-time champions have enjoyed a good history against Roma and are unbeaten in the last four meetings, including the 7-1 battering at Old Trafford in April 2007.

And finally, when you look at the possible pot 4 line-up the name of the club that instantly stands out is Brendan Rodgers’ Scottish invincibles Celtic. We were given a reminder of the atmosphere at Celtic Park on European nights last season, when Manchester City came to town, so imagine how fantastic the occasion promises to be against United.

Dream scenario: Real Madrid, Manchester United, AS Roma, Celtic