MANCHESTER UNITED ended up in this season’s Champions League Group of Death because of agreement not to play on same night as Liverpool, it can be revealed.
United fans were left raging on social media after being drawn with Paris Saint-Germain, RB Leipzig and Istanbul Basaksehir in Group H.Man Utd were forced into Group H thanks to a broadcasting rule involving Liverpool[/caption] Man Utd were drawn into the Group of Death, alongside PSG, RB Leipzig and Istanbul Basaksehir[/caption]
Some supporters even accused Uefa of ‘fixing’ the draw.
But it’s now emerged United’s options were massively limited because of arch-rivals Liverpool and a little-known broadcasting rule.
In Thursday’s draw, Uefa followed a procedure that has been in place ever since the Champions League’s 1997 expansion – then to just 24 clubs.
Uefa’s deals with broadcasters ensures that clubs from countries with two or more representatives are “paired” for TV purposes.
BT Sport, like ITV before them, do not want Liverpool and United, the two best-supported teams in the country, playing on the same night.
It means that, just like Real Madrid and Barcelona in Spain, the Reds and United are automatically placed in different halves of the draw.
Juventus and AC Milan in Italy – along with Bayern Munich and Borussia Dortmund in Germany – have the same deals in place.
Uefa explained this system, with Groups A-D the “red” half and Groups E-H the “blue” one, before the draw.Liverpool and Man Utd are not allowed to play on the same night in the Champions League[/caption]
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So when Liverpool were the fourth top seed out of the hat, in Group D, United could only go into a “blue” group: E, F, G or H.
With just Groups C and H available to United, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s men were therefore forced into H, into which PSG had already been drawn.
United’s pain was only worsened when German giants RB Leipzig came out of pot three.
And while Istanbul Basaksehir, drawn from the fourth and final pot, may be new to the Champions League, they are still Turkish champions.
And a flight to Turkey also means a monster return trip – which could take its toll on players in an already-hectic 2020-21 schedule.
United’s misery was further compounded after the other three Premier League teams were handed relatively simple groups.
Chelsea drew Sevilla, Krasnodar and Rennes, while Liverpool were paired-up with Ajax, Atalanta and Midtjylland.
Meanwhile, Manchester City – desperate for the first-ever Champions League title – got Porto, Olympiacos and Marseille.