MONACO - Fate largely smiled on Manchester United and holders Chelsea in yesterday's Champions League draw, but Manchester City found themselves drawn into a daunting group with Real Madrid, Ajax and Borussia Dortmund.
Chelsea, who beat Bayern Munich on penalties in last season's final to claim the trophy for the first time, were drawn in Group E alongside Italian champions Juventus, Shakhtar Donetsk, and Danish debutants Nordsjaelland.
Juventus will be appearing in the Champions League for the first time since the 2009-10 season and are likely to present the strongest challenge to Roberto di Matteo's side.
United found themselves in similarly benign surroundings in Group H, having been pitted against Portugal's SC Braga, Galatasaray of Turkey and Romanians CFR-Cluj in the draw in Monaco.
However, manager Sir Alex Ferguson did not need reminding that it was from a similarly straightforward group — containing Benfica, FC Basel and Cluj's domestic rivals Otelul Gelati — that the three-time champions failed to progress last season.
"We have the experience of playing against Galatasaray in the past and we will always remember the 'Welcome to Hell' banners," Ferguson told manutd.com.
"Obviously, we've never played Cluj before but, after the experience of last year, we don't want to make any stupid errors this time. We will play our strongest team to make sure we get through."
United, beaten 3-1 by Barcelona in the 2011 final, are appearing in the group phase for a record 18th time.
City's pool, Group D, unites the reigning champions of England, Spain, Germany and the Netherlands, with the Manchester club the only team never to have won the Champions League.