European draw is just the ticket for Ferguson

Sir Alex Ferguson is looking forward to crossing swords with his former assistant Walter Smith after Manchester United were drawn in the same Champions League group as Rangers.

Smith was Ferguson's assistant at Old Trafford in 2004, at the end of the same season that the clubs previously met in the tournament.

Ferguson said: "Walter Smith's already been on the phone, talking about tickets for Old Trafford! Like me, he's really looking forward to our games against each other.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

"You can't complain about that, it's a good draw for us. You always look at the travelling side of it and the only one that's of any great distance is the trip to Turkey."

Spanish side Valencia and Turkish champions Bursaspor – making their bow in the tournament – make up the other two teams in a group United should win.

United have also played Celtic twice in the Champions League and club chief executive David Gill added: "Without a doubt the manager relishes these Scottish games and I think he will be looking forward to this immensely – of course he has known Walter Smith professionally and personally for many years.

"The group will be an interesting one, Valencia are a good Spanish team and will be technically good and then playing Bursaspor for the first time.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

"That's what happened when they changed the access list, you have a number of teams playing for the first time so they are an unknown quantity.

"But any team that wins the Turkish league beating Fenerbahce, Galatasaray, Besiktas must be a decent team, so we have to prepare well for that too."

Tottenham's first appearance in Europe's top club competition looks like being a baptism of fire, with holders Inter Milan – managed now by Rafael Benitez – German side Werder Bremen and Dutch champions FC Twente making up Group A.

Spurs club secretary Darren Eales claimed however that Tottenham's opponents would not be relishing being drawn against them.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

Eales said: "In the game against Young Boys we had a wonderful atmosphere. In night games in Europe at White Hart Lane we could be a match for anyone. We could be one of the teams people were fearful to draw.

"We're certainly not looking too far ahead, we're just looking to give a good account of ourselves and we're looking at getting into the knockout stage first, that's our first aim."

Chelsea's task looks more straightforward in Group F, with Marseille, Spartak Moscow and Zilina, the Slovakian champions.

Chelsea club secretary Dave Barnard insisted the Blues were not viewing the trophy as their 'Holy Grail', and that the team had answered suggestion of them being an ageing squad.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

Barnard said: "The guys answered all the criticism by winning the double and it looks like all those old players at the beginning of the season just got younger.

"Everyone talks about the Champions League being the Holy Grail, it's the one trophy that's eluded us. But I think we're geared up for it."

Arsenal are in Group H with Shakhtar Donetsk – meaning a return to the Emirates for Eduardo – Partizan Belgrade and Portuguese side Braga.

Gunners chief executive Ivan Gazidis said: "Shakhtar were UEFA Cup champions a couple of seasons ago, and are a team that has invested a lot and has made a lot of progress, including of course Eduardo which will be a great story for us.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

"He will get an incredibly warm welcome from our fans who love him and wish him nothing but the best, unless he's playing against us.

"Braga beat Celtic and Sevilla on the way through so clearly they have quality as well.

"If we are professional about it, are not complacent and can bring our quality to these games we believe we can progress."

Gazidis hinted that Arsenal may look to make another signing before the transfer window closes but would not be drawn on whether Arsene Wenger was chasing a new goalkeeper.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

He said: "We have signed Sebastian Squillaci, which will add some experience and steel to our defence, but it has been an unusual transfer window in general, the middle of the transfer window for many teams has essentially been dead."

In Group G, Jose Mourinho's Real Madrid are drawn with AC Milan, Ajax and Auxerre, while favourites Barcelona have it easy in Group D against Panathinaikos, FC Copenhagen and Rubin Kazan.

Last season's semi-finalists Lyon are in Group B against Benfica, Schalke and Hapoel Tel-Aviv, while beaten finalists Bayern Munich are in Group E against Roma, Basle and CFR Cluj.

London trio eye Wembley Euro cup final

Arsenal chief executive Ivan Gazidis believes there will be a London sub-plot to this year's Champions League as all three capital clubs look to book their place in the Wembley final.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

The Gunners appeared to get the most favourable draw of the four English participants after being matched with Shakhtar Donetsk, Braga and Partizan Belgrade in Group H.

And with the showpiece due to be held at the national stadium for the first time since its redevelopment, Gazidis is sure there will be a big emphasis from his side as well as Tottenham and Chelsea on ensuring at least one local finalist.

"There is a real incentive for all English clubs, especially the London clubs," he said.

"It's would be fantastic to play in the final in London and I know Spurs and Chelsea will feel the same way. There will probably be a mini competition within a competition there."

"Looking at the calibre of some of the other European sides, it's going to be very tough.

"We probably won't see the days of three (English) teams in the semis again this year," he added.