In a draw full of some tasty encounters, Manchester United has been pitted against the reigning Ligue 1 champions, Olympique de Marseille, in the UEFA Champions League Round of 16.
Due to the rules set in place, the first match will be hosted at the Stade Vélodrome on February 23, because Marseille finished runners-up in Group F, and the return leg will be played at Old Trafford on March 15.
United has only met l’OM once before – in the 1999/00 Group Stage – which was not mentioned by UEFA during the draw, but in the last couple of seasons, the French champions have got a new new-look and desire, and Sir Alex Ferguson will definitely have his team prepared for this under-the-radar clash.
Marseille, under the guidance of former Chelsea player, Didier Deschamps, won the latest Ligue 1 title to give them nine French top-flight championships overall.
In Group F, Marseille showed that they can offer any of their Round of 16 opponents a real match, because they knocked off the group winners Chelsea 1-0 in the final match of the group.
With their four clean sheets in their group, Marseille was tied for second for the most – only behind Real Madrid and Manchester United’s five, so they will be very well organized when they come up against Wayne Rooney and co.
Tied with Arsenal, Olympique de Marseille had the most points by any second-placed team with 12, and their +9 goal differential was good enough for seventh out of all of the 32 teams that competed in the Champions League Group stage this season.
Deschamps will be forever remembered by the United fans for what happened in Turin rather than his short stint at Stamford Bridge, because he was the player who Paul Scholes fouled and miss the colossal Champions League Final at the Nou Camp.
He also guided Marseille to the 1993 UEFA Champions League title with a 1-0 win over the highly-favored AC Milan, so Deschamps’ resume as a manager could very well be on its way to replicating the one he had as a midfield general.
Former United left-back Gabriel Heinze is currently on the books at Marseille, and he will be sure to get a rowdy reception at Old Trafford, because of the antics he pulled on his way out of the club.
The Argentine defender, who Sir Alex stood by during his long-term knee injury, showed his true colors and did his best to force a transfer to Anfield to play for Liverpool, but that was never going to happen, so the Gaffer shipped him to Real Madrid, instead.
Some other players that could cause United problems are Benoit Cheyrou, Lucho González, Loïc Remy and the very underrated Taye Taiwo.
Cheyrou is a 29-year old midfielder playmaker who will be pulling all of the strings in Marseille’s attack.
He will be looking to feed the ball to either the proven midfield goal scorer, Lucho, and the highly-touted young Remy, who both have scored five goals in Ligue 1 this season.
Lucho came to the European forefront with FC Porto, but transferred to France last season, and has helped them become very establish in Europe’s finest competition.
Remy is being linked with a move to Barclays Premier League to either Liverpool or the French-heavy Arsenal, because he has pace to burn and can be a real handful for defenders.
Taiwo, who serves as the club’s vice captain behind their goalkeeper, Steve Mandanda, is a very powerful full-back, who United will have to be aware of his positive runs forward.
Sir Alex Ferguson will see last year’s exit as a harsh lesson learned, because of the favorable draw they had to the UEFA Champions League Final, so he will not let his Manchester United players take anything for granted and will be fully focused on Olympique de Marseille.
Round of 16 Draw
AS Roma v Shakhtar Donetsk
AC Milan v Tottenham Hotspur
Valencia v FC Schalke 04
Internazionale v Bayern Munich
Olympique Lyonnais v Real Madrid
Arsenal v FC Barcelona
Olympique Marseille v Manchester United
FC Copenhagen v Chelsea