COMMENT: Manchester United facing Juventus is a bittersweet trip down memory lane
H for history.
Manchester United are to face a resurgent Valencia and always competitive Young Boys of Bern in Group H of the Champions League this year, but Thursday's draw was all about the first name out of the perspex bowl, as Juventus were paired with Jose Mourinho's faltering outfit to gasps of both dread and excitement.
It has always proved a true glamour tie of European football, with each club often acting as a dominant benchmark for the other. Alas there is little doubt as to which superpower is in the ascendancy at present, and that will make for bittersweet realisation for the Old Trafford faithful. The focus for many will be how to ensure second place.
The big story of the draw is one of friends reuniting, with Paul Pogba and Cristiano Ronaldo revisiting their old stomping ground. The latter has United to thank for developing him into a world star, whilst the former enjoyed his best form for the Old Lady. How each performs in familiar surrounds could tip the balance either way.
Despite the tough group, United fans will at least hope that the prospect of facing his former club will spur Pogba to showcase the best of his talents, and provide him with the kind of motivation that he sometimes seems to lack in Manchester colours. Even if he sees it as a shop window, it will be to United's immediate benefit.
The return of Ronaldo, however, is a far more emotional consideration. Not only because it will conjure up memories of happier and more exciting times for his former fans, but it will act as a stark reminder of how steep the fall has been since his departure. What was once a perfect stage for his wondrous talents is now the scene of constant chaos.
Of course anything can happen - and indeed it remains to be seen whether Jose Mourinho will remain in his position - but one thing is for sure: of the two giants of European football paired in Group H, only one is prepared in the most effective way to take on the challenge of a Champions League tilt. The other is currently a farce cloaked in reputation.