What Manchester United's Champions League Draw Means for David Moyes
The Champions League draw could have been kinder to Manchester United and David Moyes. But it could have been much worse.
In his first season at Old Trafford, and his first in the Champions League group stages, Moyes won't have cared for glamour ties at Paris Saint-Germain or Juventus.
He'll want to get out of Group A as quickly, and as painlessly, as possible.
Shakhtar qualified ahead of Chelsea in last season's competition, but since then they've lost key players. Fernandinho has joined City for £30 million, while Willian has signed for Chelsea after a short spell at Anzhi.
Who will cause Man United the most problems?
What will be a worry to Moyes, however, is a midweek 4,200-mile round trip from Manchester to Donetsk.
Mention of Leverkusen, now managed by former Liverpool defender Sami Hyypia, will bring back bad memories for many United fans.
Drawn against Leverkusen in the Champions League semi-finals in 2002, United should have won the first leg at Old Trafford only for Oliver Neuville to score a late equaliser and earn the visitors a 2-2 draw.
United took the lead in the second leg as well, but Neuville popped up again to make sure Sir Alex Ferguson missed the chance to lead his team out in the final at Hampden Park in his native Glasgow.
Ferguson got some measure of revenge the following season, beating Leverkusen home and away in the group stages.
United will play Real Sociedad for the first time when they meet at Old Trafford on October 23 and in San Sebastian on November 5. Supporters will already be eyeing the trip to northern Spain, but Moyes will be wary of a team that knocked out Lyon in the third qualifying round.
Sociedad have lost Spain under-21 midfielder Asier Illarramendi from the side that finished fourth in La Liga after he left for Real Madrid. But 22-year-old French midfielder Antoine Griezmann showed against Lyon that he his capable of hurting even the best teams in the world.
But if the draw has not caused Moyes huge concerns, the fixture list might have.
Two of United's three away trips in the Champions League are followed by away games in the Premier League.
After facing Shakhtar in Donetsk on October 2, United travel to Sunderland on October 5. They then play Tottenham at White Hart Lane the weekend after travelling to Leverkusen.
The trip to Real Sociedad on November 5 is followed by a date with Arsenal at Old Trafford.
Ferguson eventually became a master of managing his squad to challenge on two fronts, and Moyes will have to do the same.
New to United and new to the Champions League, these are the obstacles Moyes will have to learn to overcome. But with the journey for the first stage already mapped out, he should be happy with the route.
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