Luck of draw sets United on road to Madrid
AS Alex Ferguson headed to Cheltenham races yesterday, he may have been denied the sight of seeing the horse he half owns, What A Friend, running in the Gold Cup, but he might well have muttered "what a draw" in the quarter-finals of the Champions League.
Manchester United face Bayern Munich and, if victorious, will play the winners of Lyon and Bordeaux. Suddenly the road to the final in Madrid on May 22 and the chance to contest this trophy for the third consecutive year has opened up for the Premier League champions.
United have managed to avoid Barcelona, the Jose Mourinho show that is Inter Milan and Arsenal, which could have also provided a mentally-sapping distraction to the title race for both clubs.
The reaction to drawing Bayern Munich is to stir memories of the final 11 years ago, and that crazy comeback. And, again, United will hope to party like it's 1999.
"We have got a good chance," Ferguson said. "The history of playing Bayern in past European ties tells you it's going to be a very difficult tie for us. It'll be a fantastic atmosphere in both games.
In seven meetings with United, the Germans have lost only once, with four matches ending in draws. In 2001, Bayern gained a measure of revenge for their last-gasp defeat in '99 by knocking Ferguson's side out at this stage of the competition en route to winning it for a fourth time.
Should United prevail against a side studded with talent but at times struggling to justify their billing -- the mere mention of Franck Ribery and Arjen Robben should cause some apprehension -- they will face a French club.
It will either be Bordeaux, coached by Laurent Blanc, whose team had the best form of any side in the group stages, beating Bayern twice, although they stuttered against Olympiacos in the last round, or Lyon, who disposed of Real Madrid and so certainly cannot be easily discounted. (© Daily Telegraph, London)