Champions League round of 16: Possible opponents for Manchester United

A 1-1 draw against Young Boys brought an end to Manchester United’s Champions League group campaign. The Reds finished on top of Group F ahead of Villarreal, Atalanta and Young Boys despite losing the first game of the group.

Now the draw is upon us, and anticipation grows for who we might get, with United seeded for the draw meaning we will play the second leg at home.

The away goals rule is no longer applicable in this year’s competition, so this means if the scores are level after 90 minutes, then it is extra0time and possibly penalties if the scores remain level.

With United winning the group, this mean they can only draw teams who qualified In second place. Chelsea and Villarreal are the only team United cannot draw, as teams are protected against drawing teams from the same country as them in this draw. Also United cannot draw a team that they played in the same group, so this leaves only 6 possibilities.

Here is a list of the teams Manchester United can draw

  • Atletico Madrid
  • Benfica
  • Inter Milan
  • Paris Saint Germain
  • RB Salzburg
  • Sporting Lisbon

So now we know the possible opposition, we will now take a little look at each team and the challenges they will pose.

Atletico Madrid:

The current Spanish Champions are no strangers to the Champions League Knockout football in the last few years under Diego Simeone, but this will be a team United will avoid if they can help it.

Atletico have some brilliant players in Luis Suarez, Joao Felix and Antoine Griezmann and as a collective them embody their manager’s attitude and spirit like few in World Football.

In the time that Simeone has been there they have reached two finals losing to city rivals Real Madrid in both, also they have been one of the most dangerous and frustrating sides to play in Europe.

Over the years Simeone has tried to evolve from a solid defensive and tough team to a team with a little more flair and expansion so there is the possibility they might not be as solid as they once were, but they can still cause a shock.


Manchester United and Benfica have a special history dating back to the 1960’s with some classic matches including the 68 European Cup final and 1966 Quarter final 5-1 win. The win was their first defeat at home in the competition and the rise of “El Beatle” the great George Best who scored 2 goals and announced himself to the world in that game.

Benfica may not be the force they were a few years ago and might be one of the kinder draws should United draw them but they will still need to be respected. They finished behind Bayern Munich and finished ahead of Barcelona who qualified for the Europa League as a result of finishing third.

Jan Vertonghen, Adel Taarabt, will both be familiar names to English Football fans but Darwin Nunez and Rafa Silva will be two players United should keep an eye on a possible danger men for the Portuguese side.

Inter Milan:

If United draw Inter, then most United fans memory will go to a Paul Scholes goal scored in the San Siro to send them through again a Ronaldo led Inter side on the way to the treble in 1999.

Inter Milan are the current Champions of Italy, even though last summer was one of turmoil with Manager Antonio Conte and star striker Romelu Lukaku leaving the club they are still a formidable side.

Under new manager Simeone Inzaghi they are starting to look like a very solid and fluid outfit, Lautaro Martinez and Nicolo Barrella are the two jewels in the crown at Inter but they boast some superb players.

United fans will remember Matteo Darmian, Eden Dzeko and Alexis Sanchez but they boast a team of superb internationals who will provide United with a very stern test. Inter will be a tough team for anyone to draw and maybe they might go deeper in the competition than a lot of people think.

Paris Saint Germain:

One of the best nights in the last few years for United was the round of 16 win in Paris in the 18/19 season under recently departed manager Ole Gunner Solskjaer.

Even though PSG boast a star-studded line-up with Kylian Mbappe, Neymar and now Lionel Messi the Champions League has eluded them, will Mauricio Pochettino succeed where other have failed?

United have proved that they can compete with and beat PSG but also the defeat in the group stage last season to the French side helped knock United out in the group stages stages.

A supremely talented group of individuals but can they come together as a team? If they can then they could beat anyone in the competition so would be best to avoid. Also, the inevitable Ronald vs Messi debates would make this one of the most annoying games from a media perspective and we would all be sick of it by the day after the draw let alone anywhere close to the game.

RB Salzburg:

Last season Manchester United played RB Leipzig in the group stages of the competition and were eliminated by them in the final game of the group. Salzburg are another team under the Red Bull umbrella and attribute their success largely to our new interim manager Ralf Rangnick.

A team firmly built in Ralf’s image will mean this will be an extremely tough test for United and should not be looked upon a gimme in any circumstances. They play high tempo pressing football and United will need to be on their guard against a potential upset.

Over the last few seasons Salzburg have grown into European competition and this marks their first venture into the Knockout Rounds of the Champions League. Erling Haaland and Sadio Mane are two notable names to have played for Salzburg and gone onto to bigger things so they do have an eye for talent so keep an eye on young striker Karim Adeyemi as he will get a big move very soon.

Probably one of the easier draws on paper but still represents a tough draw but with Rangnick’s knowledge of the club this could be a kinder draw than it would have been a few months ago.

Sporting Lisbon:

Manchester United and Sporting Lisbon have a very good relationships with both clubs having signed players from the other, most notably Cristiano Ronaldo, Bruno Fernandes and Nani.

They have a world class academy and continue to produce top tier talent, now they are looking like being the dominant force in Portugal once again. Last season’s Portuguese Champions are looking on course to go close to winning it again and emerge from the shadows of Benfica and Porto in recent years.

This is down to their new manager Ruben Amorim, the young Portuguese manager is one of the brightest coaching prospects in Europe and a manager that United should be keeping an eye on for the future.

Sporting paid €10m for Amorim to Braga in March 2020 and he rewarded them by guiding the club to their first title win in 19 years last season. The fee spent on him was the third highest ever paid for a manager and looks to be worth the investment.

This is one of the tougher trips that United might have as this Sporting team do look very good and might be a huge upset waiting to happen for whoever draws them, a talented coach on the way up and a young and well coached team means it is not to be taken lightly.

Regardless of who United draw it will be a tough ask but with a new coach and enough talent then anything could happen this year and who knows it could be St Petersburg in May for Rangnick’s Reds.

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