Manchester United FC open the defence of their European title against Villarreal CF, aiming to avoid a repeat of their unhappy fate when they last met Manuel Pellegrini's men in the UEFA Champions League.
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Manchester United FC open the defence of their European crown against Villarreal CF, aiming to avoid a repeat of their unhappy fate when they last met Manuel Pellegrini's men in the UEFA Champions League.
• When United and Villarreal faced off for the first time in the 2005/06 UEFA Champions League group stage, it was the tournament debutants from Spain who came out on top, holding Sir Alex Ferguson's team to goalless draws at El Madrigal and Old Trafford en route to securing first place in the section.
• While Villarreal duly advanced as far as the semi-finals, United's European campaign was over by Christmas as they finished bottom of the group – their earliest exit from a continental competition in a decade.
• Four months after beating Chelsea FC on penalties in a rain-soaked Luzhniki Stadium to collect their third European crown, United will be confident of ensuring a different outcome this time around. In addition, their formidable home record in the UEFA Champions League suggests a testing evening awaits Villarreal in this opening Group E fixture.
• Sir Alex Ferguson's team have won their last 12 home games in the UEFA Champions League – the most recent against another Spanish side, FC Barcelona, in last season's semi-final – to set a new competition record and they are unbeaten in their last 15 stretching back to March 2005.
• United did not lose a single game en route to their final triumph last term, winning nine and drawing three of the 12 matches that took them to Moscow. After topping a group containing AS Roma, Sporting Clube de Portugal and FC Dynamo Kyiv, they then overcame Olympique Lyonnais, Roma and FC Barcelona.
• Cristiano Ronaldo, who finished as the competition's eight-goal top scorer, struck United's goal in the 1-1 final draw with Chelsea prior to their 6-5 shoot-out success.
• United are now seeking to become the first team since AC Milan in 1989/90 to retain their European title. However, they missed the opportunity to start the new continental campaign with a trophy when losing 2-1 to FC Zenit St. Petersburg in the UEFA Super Cup on 29 August.
• It was also Zenit who ended Villarreal's interest in Europe last term, beating Pellegrini's team on away goals in the UEFA Cup Round of 32.
• Villarreal had earlier overcome FC BATE Borisov in the first round before topping their group-stage section with wins against FK Mladá Boleslav, IF Elfsborg and AEK Athens FC and a draw with ACF Fiorentina. However, after a 1-0 defeat at Zenit, Villarreal then conceded a first-half goal to Pavel Pogrebnyak in the return, ensuring their elimination despite a fightback on the night courtesy of goals from Guille Franco and Jon Dahl Tomasson.
• Villarreal subsequently secured their second UEFA Champions League campaign by finishing second in the Spanish top flight, the highest league placing in their history.
• United have a strong home record against teams from Spain, with eight wins, seven draws and just two defeats from 17 matches played.
• Villarreal had never faced English opposition before they defeated Middlesbrough FC 2-0 in a home tie in the 2004/05 UEFA Cup group stage. They then faced another three in the next season's UEFA Champions League. They secured 2-1 wins both at home and away to Everton FC in the third qualifying round before holding United twice. However, their run of luck against English sides ended against Arsenal FC in the semi-final when they lost 1-0 in London before a goalless draw at El Madrigal.
• Wayne Rooney was sent off after 64 minutes of Villarreal's goalless draw with United in Spain on 14 September 2005.
• The lineups that evening were:
Villarreal: Sebastián Viera, Jan Kromkamp, Gonzalo Rodríguez, Quique Álvarez, Rodolfo Arruabarrena, Héctor Font (Roger García), Josico (Alessio Tacchinardi), Marcos Senna, Juan Pablo Sorín, Diego Forlán, Antonio Guayre (Luciano Figueroa).
Man United: Edwin van der Sar, John O'Shea, Rio Ferdinand, Mikaël Silvestre, Gabriel Heinze (Kieran Richardson), Cristiano Ronaldo (Ryan Giggs), Darren Fletcher, Paul Scholes, Alan Smith, Wayne Rooney, Ruud van Nistelrooy (Ji-Sung Park).
• The lineups for the return fixture at Old Trafford on 22 November 2005 – the last time United failed to win a home UEFA Champions League game – were:
Man United: Edwin van der Sar, Wes Brown, Rio Ferdinand, Mikaël Silvestre, John O'Shea, Darren Fletcher (Ji-Sung Park), Alan Smith (Louis Saha), Paul Scholes, Cristiano Ronaldo, Wayne Rooney, Ruud van Nistelrooy.
Villarreal: Mariano Barbosa, Javi Venta, Gonzalo Rodríguez, Juan Manuel Peña, Rodolfo Arruabarrena, Roger García (Héctor Font), Alessio Tacchinardi (Josico), Marcos Senna, Juan Pablo Sorín, José María, Luciano Figueroa (Xisco Nadal).
• Villarreal's French midfielder Robert Pirès will not want to remember his first visit to Old Trafford with former club Arsenal FC, which brought a 6-1 reverse in February 2001. In six years at Arsenal, Pirès tasted defeat in four of five trips to United, winning only once.
• Villarreal defender Joan Capdevila appeared as a late substitute for RC Deportivo La Coruña on the night they defeated United 3-2 at Old Trafford in a UEFA Champions League group stage game on 17 October 2001.
• Old Trafford will hold no surprises for Villarreal forward Giuseppe Rossi, who was a United player for three years between 2004 and 2007. Rossi made 14 appearances in that time, scoring four times. In the UEFA Champions League, he appeared as a late substitute in both the 3-0 home win against Debreceni VSC in the third qualifying round in August 2005 and the 1-0 defeat away against LOSC Lille Métropole in the group stage three months later.
• Villarreal midfielder Marcos Senna earned a place in the UEFA EURO 2008™ Team of the Tournament for his efforts in Spain's triumphant campaign in Austria and Switzerland.
• United have lifted the European Champion Clubs' Cup three times: in 1968, 1999 and 2008.
• The other opening Group E games pits Celtic FC against Aalborg BK.