Tuesday, 7 September 2021

Adios... at least for now


Here at United Faithful, we thought we'd give you an update for the coming weeks.

From tomorrow, these pages will become temporarily inactive meaning we will be unable to provide you - for the time being at least - the very latest from everything Manchester United. This is because this particular Red is taking a two week hiatus as I embark on a long distance walking holiday - mad I know, but I love it!

We will therefore have no match reports for the Newcastle game, our Champions League opener with Young Boys and the double league and cup header against West Ham. We will reopen in time for the Aston Villa fixture and, although away from these pages, we will be doing our best to follow the fortunes of Ole Gunnar Solskjaer's tricky, piss boiling, showtime Reds from afar. 

So to all you lovely lot out there, we just wanted to let you know the reasons behind what might seem a disappointing and unusually lengthy absence, but rest assured we will back!

UTR!

Wednesday, 1 September 2021

Manchester United: Transfer window round-up


Well, where to even begin when it comes to dissecting Manchester United's summer transfer activity of 2021?
United went into the window in need of a right-back, a right winger and a defensive midfield player and ended it with only player across those three positions. Usually, this would be cause for consternation but times they are a-changing and there was instead widespread euphoria as the deadline passed late on Tuesday.

Indeed, this was the best transfer window the Reds have had in years: it was as if we suddenly remembered who we were again. There have been some serious duds coming through the revolving door at Carrington over the past few seasons but, this time, United rediscovered their transfer magic, sprinkled the stardust and threw down the gauntlet. 

Granted, United will have to make do without the defensive midfield player so badly needed. Eduardo Camavinga ended up at Real Madrid and Saul Niguez joined Chelsea on loan. Yves Bissouma - Brighton's talented string-puller, stayed where he was and a move for Declan Rice did not materialise.

But United still ended up with a generational player and two further world class, genuine, 24-carat talents. The Reds (at last) got their man as Jadon Sancho - for so long the apple of Ole Gunnar Solskjaer's eye - finally arrived from Borussia Dortmund for 73m. United had walked away from the deal as the German giants dug their heels in a year ago, but, twelve months on, the Reds long running pursuit of the 21-year-old came to an end as the generational talent came to Old Trafford to provide an immediate solution to our problematic right-wing position. 

Raphael Varane proved the yin to Sancho's yang - for as good a buy as Sancho was, United's defence needed improvement and, in the phenomenal Frenchman, there are few better to do so.  A serial winner, Varane - a four time Champions League winner and a World champion - is a man to bring an instant and immediate upgrade to any defence in world football. Varane's Reds career may only be 90 minutes old, but he's already shown his class with a simply colossal showing at Wolves as Solskjaer's side battled to an ugly, smash and grab 1-0 victory. Victor Lindelof may have rarely let his team or his manager down, but there can be no better fit for this side than a man with more silver than your local branch of Ernest Jones.

We thought that was it - all transfer business done and dusted, in terms of incomings at least, now on with the season. But the biggest bombshell was yet to come. Twelve years on from his departure - and in the same summer his long time rival Lionel Messi also moved clubs - Cristiano Ronaldo came home.

In a chain of events no one saw coming, the man still adored at Old Trafford - the king known simply as CR7 - played out a public dalliance with City until United, or more pertinently, Sir Alex Ferguson, intervened. 
It was a moment we had dreamed of for so long, no one believed it would ever actually happen, but on Friday 27 August 2021 Ronaldo rejoined the club that made him. If Varane was the icing to Sancho's cake, then Ronaldo was sweet the red cherry perched gloriously on the top. 

Even by Manchester United's standards, this was surely one of the most extraordinary summers in this club's proud and illustrious history. If you'd told me we'd sign these three remarkable players, I'd have said you're mad and should lay off the sauce. 

Tom Heaton joined from Aston Villa - a signing perhaps understandably under the radar, and ex-Red Paul McShane - by now a 35-year-old veteran arrived as player-coach with the view of coaching the Reds production line of talent on the Carrington conveyor belt.

Elsewhere, several Red youngsters went out on loan. Axel Tuanzebe, his game time further stunted by the arrival of Varane, went the opposite way to Heaton whilst Tahith Chong, Will Fish, Facundo Pellistri, Andreas Pereira, James Garner and Brandon Williams will all play their football away from Old Trafford during 2021-22. Good luck to everyone in their continuing education and development. 

There was a permanent farewell to Old Trafford, too. Dan James played 74 times for United across two seasons, and was just embarking on his third campaign in Red when the lure of Marcelo Bielsa's Leeds proved too great. 'DJ' almost joined the Elland Road club after he left Swansea only to sign for Solskjaer instead. James always gave 100%, had an unstinting attitude with a fantastic work rate and clearly loved playing for United. The emotional scenes after he scored on his debut against Chelsea just days after the death of his beloved father will live forever in our memories. Ultimately, James wasn't quite good enough but came across as a lovely young man and, of course, we wish him well in his new career across the Pennines (apart from when they play us, that is). Leeds paid £25m for the jet-heeled 23 year old - United's third biggest outgoing ever. 

United have started the season well and already sit four points ahead of last term's tally at the same stage. With the stellar signings and depth in abundance, there's no reason not to be confident of a serious tilt at the title in 2021-22. 

Sunday, 29 August 2021

Match report: Wolverhampton 0-1 Man United


A late Mason Greenwood winner punished Wolves for their profligacy as Ole Gunnar Solskjaer's side set a new record of 28 league away games unbeaten.
It was the ultimate smash and grab raid for the Reds as Bruno Lage's men were dominant for long periods and should have been out of sight by half time having missed chance after chance with United indebted to David de Gea. 
But Greenwood popped up ten minutes from the end - having been set up the colossal Raphael Varane - to send United into the international break with two wins from three, four points better off now than at this stage last season.

The 19-year-old became just the second teenager to hit three in his side's first three games of a league season - Liverpool's teenage tyro Robbie Fowler first set that particular record in 1994/95.

Speaking of records, United are unbeaten away from home since January 2020 at Anfield, eclipsing the Arsenal Invincibles with Bruno Fernandes yet to taste defeat on the road in a league game. This was a tie in which we certainly rode our luck and scarcely deserved the win, but - as the old adage goes - it is backs to the wall wins like this one which can prove so vital come May. 

In a seismic week in which United announced the return of our prodigal son Cristiano Ronaldo, there was a Portuguese-themed party atmosphere at Molineux with the travelling Reds serenading CR7 throughout, running through his own personal song book with a cardboard cutout of the man himself. 

There were full debuts for Varane and Jadon Sancho, in place of Victor Lindelof and the injured Scott McTominay with Paul Pogba dropping into the pivot and Dan James recalled in lieu of Anthony Martial on the left.

In keeping with the nine previous meetings between the sides since the Old Gold's return to the top flight, it was an enthrallingly tight contest as Solskjaer took charge of his 100th game in the league as United manager.

United had the first opening as Sancho ran at the hosts defence, but the ball was recycled and Wolves countered at breakneck speed. The dangerous Adama Traore - one of the best wingers in the league - demonstrated his jet powered ability as he burst clear to leave Fred for dead and picked out Raul Jimenez, but the talismanic striker could only fire straight at David de Gea.

The Reds were a side under siege as Wolves went close again soon afterwards. Midfield mainstay Joao Moutinho played the ball through to Francisco Trincao, Fred looked to have kept it out but instead lost possession to the on loan Barcelona player. Clean through and with only De Gea to beat, Trincao fired beyond the advancing keeper only for Aaron Wan - Bissaka to stretch every sinew and rescue United with a brilliant last-ditch clearance on the line. 

Moutinho flashed a shot over the bar and Jimenez went close again before United weathered Wolves early onslaught and went close themselves at the other end through Greenwood, whom was narrowly off target after a darting run into the box.

Varane was having a busier bow than he perhaps would have expected, but nothing phases this colossal Frenchman and his importance was only emphasised with an excellent headed clearance from a Moutinho free-kick. 

Bruno Fernandes had a goal chalked out for offside shortly before half-time, Wolves keeper Jose Sa did well after Luke Shaw had whipped in a cross and Greenwood came within inches of putting United ahead against the run of play.

Two of United's generational talents were at the heart of it as Sancho found Greenwood - a combination we will see a lot more of - and the latter burst into the box to fire his angled low drive narrowly wide of the far post.

United were much improved and finally awoke from their soporific slumber after the interval. Sa saved well from Fred (it wouldn't be a United match without an effort by him from distance), and Fernandes might have linked up with the newly-arrived Cavani had they not got their wires crossed in the box.

Lage's men remained a threat going forward and Traore saw another chance go begging as he fluffed a shot wide when well placed after the eye-catching Trincao had cut the ball back. 

This was the very definition of "riding your luck" as De Gea came to our rescue again on 66 minutes with a sensational double save. The Spaniard kept out a Roman Saiss header from a corner, but the ball dropped to the same player on the rebound for a second, ever better, stop from De Gea as a fine reflex save deflected the ball to safety. Quite how Lage's Wolves had not scored no one knew, and it became somewhat inevitable United would punish them.

Sa denied Pogba and Fernandes pulled an effort wide, but the breakthrough finally arrived in the 80th minute with that man Greenwood again at the heart of it.
Wolves were left incensed after a coming together between Pogba and Ruben Neves, with the Wolves man going to ground about 50 years after challenging the Frenchman for the ball. Varane collected the loose ball and moved it out wide right to Greenwood, he shimmied, threw in a stepover and fired on goal. The angle was tight and Sa should have done better but did we care? Did we f**k. Greenwood's third goal of the season ultimately proved enough despite five added minutes to make United record breakers ahead of the imminent arrival of a chap called Cristiano..

Overall team performance: 5/10
United Faithful Man of the Match: David de Gea. Three world class saves to preserve parity. How crucial they proved to be.

Saturday, 28 August 2021

Cristiano Ronaldo: A glittering career in numbers


Twelve years after leaving, Cristiano Ronaldo returns to Manchester United as one of the greatest players the world has ever seen.
Long after this extraordinary exponent of his craft has ridden off into the sunset, his legacy will live on as a man who defined an era and inspired an entire generation of fans and players. 
He left United as the best on the planet and returns over a decade on still going strong, now in the twilight of his career but with more trophies than most clubs. 

Born and raised in Madeira, it was at United where Ronaldo's career really took off. He arrived at Old Trafford in 2003 as a
talented, teenaged and temperamental tyro with annoying hair, poncey earrings, the world at his feet and with more flashy style than any tangible substance. Six years on, he left the Theatre of Dreams as a legend, a man with hero cult status and a place in the annals of United as greatness personified. 

Ronaldo's time at United bridged a generational gap as one great side - the league winning one of the mid-noughties - was rebuilt and remodelled, going through three fallow years when the Old Trafford garden was far from fruitful. But the player known simply as 'CR7' would emerge as the pantheon of Sir Alex Ferguson's last great side - the spearhead of a magnificent, all conquering juggernaut as the formidable Reds swept all before them en route to three successive league titles, a Champions League, an FA Cup, two League Cups and the FIFA Club World Cup.

But even as United's fortunes began to wane, Ronaldo's star was only just beginning to shine. He struck 118 goals in eight shy of 300 games in the Red of United - a frightening tally only enhanced by the fact he primarily played as a winger in most of that time. His best season in front of goal for the Reds came in the 2007-08 season as he plundered 42 goals across all competitions in one of the finest individual campaigns the club, and indeed the Premier League, had ever seen. 

It was then Ronaldo hit his peak and become the greatest player on this planet - a status some would say he has yet to relinquish. Ronaldo had only just turned 23, but eclipsed the legendary George Best's 40-year old record of 32 goals in a season from the wing. CR7 fell only two short of equalling another great - Denis Law - who still holds the honour of the highest goals tally in a single season for the Reds (46). The Portuguese had assumed superstar status and his goals-per-game ratio that year is also superior to Luis Suarez's rate of a goal every 95.5 minutes in 2013/14.

If that was impressive, Ronaldo's numbers only continued to smash through the ceiling upon leaving for Real Madrid. It was the young man's dream, and we watched with pride as his phenomenal prowess in front of goal struck new heights. His exploits in the white of Los Blancos made his success in Red look average as - over the next decade - Ronaldo would score goal after goal. In 438 games in the Spanish capital, he would procure a simply astonishing 450 goals (450...)  to win two more league titles, four (four!) Champions Leagues, two Spanish Cups, three UEFA Super Cups, and the FIFA World Club Cup again (and twice more for good measure). Ronaldo had taken off at Old Trafford but, by now, he was in full flight. 

Despite three relatively underwhelming years at Juventus, Ronaldo remained undimmed with another 101 goals in 134 matches. In total, Ronaldo has played 895 times for four clubs with 674 goals as well as Portugal's all time top scorer (109 goals, 179 caps) and equalling Ali Daei's all-time international record. 

Never one to do things quietly, Ronaldo has also cut a swathe through his rivals on an individual level as well as 33 trophies across his club career. For the best part of remarkable, net busting decade, CR7 and Lionel Messi have battled it out - going at each other hammer and tong - for the Ballon D'Or as the world's best men's player. 
In an individual head to head battle for the ages and football par excellence, the two finest players of our - and any other - generation have been at the peak of their considerable powers since Ronaldo left Old Trafford to join his rival in Spain. 
Ronaldo picked up FIFA's top honour five times (2008, 2013, 2014, 2016 and 2017) but Messi has outdone to scoop the prize on six occasions including four in a row - 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2015 and 2019. 

Now he's back and has showed no signs of stopping - even last season, by now a veteran at 36, Ronaldo struck 36 goals in all competitions despite Juventus missing out on the title for the first time since 2011.

Viva Ronaldo, viva Ronaldo... ere' United sing, running down the wing, viva Ronaldo! 

Ronaldo's return a double edged sword for Solskjaer's United


Cristiano Ronaldo's return to Manchester United will be seen as a fairytale denouement to one of the most decorated careers the game has ever seen.
The man simply known as 'CR7' was born to shine at The Theatre of Dreams with the 36-year-old superstar still fondly remembered at Old Trafford for his part in Sir Alex's final great dynasty. 

Ronaldo won the Champions League, thr
ee Premier Leagues, the FA Cup and two League Cups in a glittering six-year stay under his mentor Sir Alex Ferguson before an 80m move to Real Madrid. 

United boss Ole Gunnar Solskjaer will celebrate the recapture of Ronaldo - but his return also proves a double-edged sword for the affable Norwegian gaffer.
Solskjaer has done virtually everything right as United boss but his managerial CV at the club is still missing the biggest measure of success - silverware. Despite signing a new deal last month, he cannot afford to wait much longer for break the drought given the vast outlay this summer.

Ronaldo will be greeted as the returning hero, a moment twelve years in the making, the homecoming Old Trafford has much longed for but one none of us ever thought would actually materialise. It will be pure theatre when Ronaldo walks down the tunnel and out onto the hallowed turf in the Red of United once more.

It was a moment of high emotion when he came back with Real Madrid in 2013 in the Champions League as he received a standing ovation in one of the best atmospheres the famous old ground has ever witnessed.
Typically, he thanked us in the only way this phenomenal champion knows how - by scoring the decisive goal as SAF's last assault on the cup with the big ears was snuffed out. No sentiment from Ronaldo, only the most precious commodity of all - success.

Now he is back at the Theatre of Dreams in Red, Solskjaer will hope he can bring that champion's mentality with him.
Ferguson's father-son relationship with Ronaldo was believe to have played a key role in his eleventh hour diversion away from 'them' in sky blue, a move which the mere thought of led to death threats, burning effigies and shirts, accusations of betrayal and a man motivated by money rather than loyalty to a club where Ronaldo remains an idol.

It is an extraordinary coup by United, especially so given City's financial clout and the fact we've publicly finger blasted them makes it all the sweeter. 
United's priority may lie in the defensive midfield area with re-enforcements desperately needed in that position, but how we could turn down the possibility of bringing back Ronaldo, a player whose star remains undimmed despite reaching the twilight of a magnificent career. We simply couldn't have passed it up.

Ronaldo brings a sprinkling of stardust, a touch of romance and enduring quality to Old Trafford. He's a certainty to plunder 25+ goals a season and provides a touchstone, a figurehead, for our emerging young talents in Mason Greenwood, Marcus Rashford and Jadon Sancho. Even his mere presence makes United a far more daunting proposition to our Premier League rivals. 

Ronaldo is still in extraordinary shape at 36, still so potent in front of goal even in a poor Juventus side. He scored 35 goals across all competitions last season, outdoing even red-hot Romelu Lukaku (30 goals) before his 97.5m move from Inter Milan back to Chelsea.

For Ole, though, Ronaldo's return ratchets the pressure up tenfold. Of course there is always pressure on the manager of Manchester United, but there will be even more now. United have fallen short in the biggest matches under the Norwegian with the agony of last term's Europa Cup final loss to Villarreal still fresh in the memory as the prize slipped away from the Reds - strong favourites on the night - by the narrowest of margins.

Solskjaer has been building something special at Old Trafford but there was always going to come a time when that progress had to be replaced with success. Given the events of the summer - with the arrivals of Sancho and Raphael Varane as well as Ronaldo - that time must be now. 

If United do not deliver a serious, prolonged, consistent title challenge and finally win that elusive trophy then scouring questions will inevitably be asked, given the embarrassment of riches at the United manager's disposal. Put simply, there can be no excuses for Solskjaer this time. 

There are still flaws in this United side - the lack of defensive nous and creativity in central midfielder is a worry and we have no cover for right-back Aaron Wan - Bissaka. But with Harry Maguire and four time Champions League winner Varane at the heart of an impressive defence, Paul Pogba and Bruno Fernandes as our creative, string-pulling heartbeat, and Ronaldo in attack with fellow new signing Sancho, another ageless but nonetheless magnificent striker in Edinson Cavani, Solskjaer's United cannot afford to fall off the pace in the chasing pack. Chelsea and City remain, for my money, favourites to battle for the title but United - on paper at least - have a squad to push them all the way.

Solskjaer has put his nets out and landed his prize catch in sensational style. It cannot be claimed he hasn't been backed in his quest to deliver glory back to Manchester United.

With Ronaldo back on board, he will be expected to finally deliver.


Friday, 27 August 2021

For 12 years, I never stopped dreaming.... viva Ronaldo, viva Ronaldo!!


 One of the most seismic 24 hours in the illustrious history of Manchester United culminated on Friday with news twelve years in the making: Cristiano Ronaldo has come home. 
Our summer business was seemingly done and dusted with the arrivals of Jadon Sancho and Raphael Varane - a dash of youth and the sprinkling of a genuine, world class 24-carat serial winner, a man to offer an instant upgrade to any defence in world football. Even only 24 hours ago, all was quiet and peaceful in the Old Trafford garden. There was not even a hint of the drama only just beginning. This will go down as surely the most remarkable transfer window football has ever seen. 

But then came the bombshell. If you thought Lionel Messi's departure from Barcelona - something we never thought we'd see - was big, then what followed was simply seismic. How very Manchester United to upstage even the greatest player of all time. What would the odds have been on Messi's move to PSG becoming merely the second biggest transfer drama of the summer? 

But then, Cristiano Ronaldo has made a career out of doing just that. Whatever Messi does, this champion - this remarkable, record smashing, stellar, once in a lifetime player - has to do it better. 
Coupled with Manchester United's penchant for the spectacular and the unexpected, you have a match simply made in heaven. Two men, surely the pair of them the best players we will ever see, both moving to new clubs in the same season in the same transfer window? No one, not even Mystic Meg, could have predicted this. Even if she had, you'd tell her to lay off the sauce and go for a lie down. These two have defined a generation, exalted above all others as the finest exponents of the Beautiful Game the world - and we - will ever witness. Their legacy and greatness will live on long after both have ridden off into the sunset.

For the past 12 years, we had all dreamed of this moment. But for so long, it has seemingly been only exactly that - a dream. Never did I think my shut eye fantasy would become a reality. The notion of Cristiano Ronaldo one day, some day, coming back to Old Trafford was like the ex you never really get over - you spend long hours pining, wondering, cherishing the memories, all the while thinking "maybe, maybe, we've got one last shot." For years I've hoped, somewhere deep inside, but never believed it would actually happen. Until this moment - a "where were you" moment on Friday, 27 August 2021. Almost twenty years on from when the braided, teenage tyro stepped through the door as a relative unknown from a small club in his native Portugal: Cristiano Ronaldo has come home. 

We watched 'Ronnie' with immense pride at Real Madrid - United had developed him from a talented if frustrating showman with poncey hair and earrings into a superstar with legendary status. We didn't mind him going - he stayed with us for one more year and had a dream to go to Real - who were we to stop him? When he went to Juve in his 30s, you felt United's chance to bring him back to where it all began - the hallowed turf of Old Trafford - had gone. 

It's at this point we should really say thank you to our nearest and dearest across the road. You see, without City's interest none of this may have ever happened. It wasn't until the mob in sky blue made their move the wheels were set in motion. From death threats, accusations of betrayal, burning shirts and effigies, disloyalty and being derided as a fallen hero, even the thought of an idol - a man we still idolise on the terraces, joining 'them' was unthinkable. 
As soon as City made their move, in came United and a phone call from one 'goat' to another, Sir Alex Ferguson (still regarded by Cristiano as a father figure), sealed the most remarkable of deals. If a week in a long time in politics, then 24 hours is an eternity in football. No club can put you through the entire gamut of emotions or pull at the heartstrings quite like Manchester United. This club, man.

In a parallel universe, both Ronaldo and Messi may have been lining up in sky blue on the opposite side of town as the latest components in Pep Guardiola's oil driven juggernaut. We can shudder at the thought but let's thank divine intervention it never came to fruition. 

Never mind the fact we can debate if Ronaldo is "what we need" or the fact he's 36 and in the twilight o a glittering career. When a player like this becomes available you'd be mad not to try and get him and the fact City just got absolutely finger blasted in public merely adds the icing on top of a delicious cake.

Even at 36 and ageing, Ronaldo is still unrivalled at the top of the game as his status as joint top scorer in the Euros attest. He's a guarantee of 25+ goals a season, brings experience, a champion's mentality and an aura around him even if he is - unsurprisingly - not the same all action player he was first time round.

So what next in this madcap summer? Ronaldo's come back home, Messi's moved to pastures new, and Real Madrid have lost both Varane and Sergio Ramos but acquired Kylian Mbappe. As the man who even in retirement still holds the key to the modern day Manchester United once said: "Football eh, bloody hell."

They say never go back but Cristiano Ronaldo has always been unique. By doing so, he made mine and millions of others dreams come true. 

 Viva Ronaldo, viva Ronaldo!! Welcome home, legend. Let's finish what you started. 

Thursday, 26 August 2021

Manchester United discover European fate


Manchester United were finally handed a favourable draw in Europe as the Champions League groups were determined today.

The 32-team group stage was drawn earlier on Thursday in the Turkish capital Istanbul as the Reds - due some luck in one of these - will be happy with the hand they were dealt by UEFA's powers that be. 

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer's side have had a succession of very difficult ties in recent seasons including last season's "Group of Death" in the Champions League when we played PSG and Leipzig (after facing the Juventus, the French giants and Barcelona in 2019), but there will be few complaints this time around. 

United, amongst the tournament's second seeds in a strong pot two, were drawn into Group F amongst some familiar faces and one opponent we have never faced before.
By a strange quirk of fate, we will be joined in the section by Unai Emery's Villarreal - and the La Liga side will need no introduction having agonisingly edged out Solskjaer's United on penalties in last season's Europa League final to earn the Yellow Submarines a place in this competition despite a seventh placed league finish.

It will be a revenge mission for the Reds, who have faced Villarreal four times before in the tournament's group stage. All four ties - in 2005/05 and 2008/09 - ended goalless with May's final also finishing in stalemate to ensure we've never beaten the men from Spain.

Atalanta - Amad's former side - provided the opposition from Pot Three with the Reds never having met Italy's emerging force in a competitive match before. Having gained promotion into Serie A only ten years ago, the Bergamo-based club have enjoyed a meteoric rise to prominence under the highly rated Gian Piero Gasperini, twice finishing as runners up in the domestic cup with three successive third-placed finishes over the past three seasons. 

Atalanta reached the quarter-finals of the Champions League on their competition debut in 2018-19 and despite not knowing much about them, look to be a tough examination for the Reds as we play Gasperini's men for the first time ever. 

Young Boys completed the section with the Swiss champions being paired with United for the second time in four seasons. We last played the team from Berne in 2018-19, winning 3-0 on a plastic pitch in Switzerland before a late Marouane Fellaini goal in the return at Old Trafford put the Reds through to the last 16 in a match famous for Jose Mourinho's bottle throwing antics. Not only did we face them relatively recently but they are also managed by former Huddersfield maestro David Wagner - former coach of Huddersfield - new to the job when he took over this summer. 
Having fallen just short of progress to the knockouts last season - albeit with the caveat of a very tough group - United should be confident (but not complacent) of getting through this time. It's nice to have a section which, on paper at least, won't be a monumental effort in every game. 

It's about time we had a draw that isn't ridiculously difficult but there are no 'easy' games at this level and so United will know not to take anyone for granted. 

Elsewhere, our divisional rivals were handed a tougher time of things. Manchester City bucked their trend of embarrassingly straightforward draws with, for once, a daunting prospect as they were placed with Lionel Messi's PSG, RB Leipzig and Club Brugge - the Belgians aside, the exact same group we found ourselves marooned in last term. 
Liverpool will play Spanish champions Atletico Madrid, Porto and AC Milan in a tough group whilst holders Chelsea were drawn with Italian giants Juventus - with Max Allegri back in charge - Zenit St Petersburg of Russia and Swedish side Malmo. 

Jurgen Klopp's side have what looks to be this season's "Group of Death" with an eye-popping fifteen European Cups between his Liverpool team (six), Milan - seven time winners - and Sergio Conceicao's Portuguese outfit (winners in 1987 and 2004). 
The group fixtures are set to be announced by the weekend (Matchday One will be played on 14/15 September)
with the final to be played in Saint Petersburg, Russia, on Saturday 28 May 2022. 

The draw in full:

Group A - Manchester City, PSG, RB Leipzig, Club Brugge
Group B - Atletico Madrid, Liverpool, Porto, Milan
Group C - Sporting CP, Borussia Dortmund, Ajax, Besiktas
Group D - Internazionale, Real Madrid, Shakhtar Donetsk, Sheriff Tiraspol
Group E - Bayern Munich, Barcelona, Benfica, Dynamo Kyiv
Group F - Villarreal, MANCHESTER UNITED, Atalanta, BSC Young Boys
Group G - Lille, Sevilla, FC Salzburg, Wolfsburg
Group H - Chelsea, Juventus, Zenit St Petersburg, Malmo