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This has not been an easy week for Manchester United. After failing in their efforts to prevent Cristiano Ronaldo and Gabriel Heinze playing in the Olympics and suffering a second successive defeat on their tour of the US, the Champions League draw dealt them another blow on Friday, handing them a probable tie against Dynamo Bucharest.
The third qualifying round of the competition has arguably never been so strong, but the cynics expecting United and Real Madrid to be handed easy passages into the group stage were confounded. Real if anything have come off worse, drawing Polish champions Wisla Krakow, assuming WIT Georgia Tbilisi don't pull off the comeback of all time and overcome an 8-2 deficit in the second leg in Poland.
United, though, could have hoped for far easier opponents than the Romanian champions, who lead their second qualifying round tie against the Slovakian champions MSK Zilina 1-0 after the away leg.
That goal was scored by the powerful forward Ionel Danciulescu, top scorer in Romania last season. His career has enjoyed a remarkable renaissance since, two seasons ago, depressed, he drove off a bridge and narrowly avoided drowning following a poor performance.
United have never faced Romanian opposition in Europe before, but in Bucharest they will be visiting the site of one of Liverpool's finest displays, their 2-1 away victory in the European Cup semi-final in 1984. This season's Liverpool, meanwhile, face Grazer AK, the Austrian double-winners. Last year's title success was the first in the club's 105-year history, but they have the season poorly.
Scotland's representative in the third qualifying round, Rangers, face an intriguing tie against the big-spending CSKA Moscow, if the Russian champions get past Neftchi of Azerbaijan.
* Everton director Paul Gregg have named Lord Grantchester, a member of the Moores family, as the mystery backer of his bid to take over the Premiership club. Everton chairman Bill Kenwright has yet to respond to Gregg's offer.
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