United and City handed tricky Europa League assignments
Published 16/12/2011 | 15:44
Manchester City and Manchester United will both face difficult matches in the last 32 of the Europa League after Roberto Mancini's side drew holders Porto and their neighbours were paired with fellow Champions League dropouts Ajax.
The Barclays Premier League pair were among the biggest names to be edged out of the Champions League group stages, both finishing third and being parachuted into today's draw in Nyon.
While many expected the demotion to Europe's second tier would be a blow to the pair's prestige, both fixtures would not be out of place in the Champions League knockout phase.
Porto, who secured the trophy last year under the guidance of now Chelsea boss Andre Villas-Boas, host City in the first leg before a return fixture at the Etihad Stadium, while United will play in the Amsterdam ArenA first.
City and Ajax both found themselves in the Europa draw after being edged out of hard groups - City, finishing behind Bayern Munich and Napoli and the Eredivisie side missing out to Lyon and Real Madrid.
Both United and Porto were bettered by less fancied opposition, with Ferguson's side third behind Basel and Benfica and the Portuguese club edged by Apoel Nicosia and Zenit St Petersburg.
Another of the big-name Champions League fallers, Primera Division side Valencia, will face Stoke, with the first leg at the Britannia Stadium.
The draw for the last 16 followed immediately on, with either Manchester United or Ajax facing a clash with Lokomotiv or Bilbao, while the winner of Manchester City's clash with Porto will go on to play either Legia or Sporting.
Valencia or Stoke have been slated for a fixture with one of Trabzonspor or PSV.
Reflecting on City's Porto meeting, football administration officer Brian Marwood told Sky Sports News: "It`s amazing, we`ve gone from the hardest group in the Champions League to getting the holders of the Europa League.
"It`s a big game and we`ll be looking forward to it.
"One thing we haven`t had to endure is going through the early rounds where you play a lot of games. Porto are attractive opposition and the current champions. They are games we are looking forward to and are excited about."
Marwood also suggested an exchange of tips could be on the cards with Chelsea, who have been paired with City's Champions League group opponents Napoli in the next round of Europe's top competition.
"We could give Chelsea information on Napoli and (former manager) Andre Villas-Boas could give us information on Porto," said Marwood.