Man United to play Atletico Madrid after Champions League last-16 redraw

Man United to play Atletico Madrid after Champions League last-16 redraw

Uefa were forced to redraw the last 16 of the Champions League after an error-strewn first attempt that wrongly pitted Manchester United against Villarreal, excluded them from a possible tie with Atlético Madrid and paired them with Paris Saint-Germain before Ralf Rangnick’s side landed Atlético at the second attempt.

European football’s governing body blamed the “software of an external service provider” for an embarrassing episode that involved the first draw being declared void almost an hour and three-quarters after it started.

United were ultimately spared a last-16 encounter with Lionel Messi, Kylian Mbappé and Mauricio Pochettino, who is interested in becoming their manager next summer, when paired with Diego Simeone’s side in an incident-free second draw. Liverpool will meet the Italian champions, Internazionale, having initially received a more favourable draw against RB Salzburg, while Manchester City swapped Villarreal for Sporting. Chelsea drew the French champions, Lille, on both occasions.

The problems began when United were drawn to face Villarreal, whom they met in the group stage and were therefore unable to play in the last 16. Uefa officials corrected the mistake and Andrey Arshavin pulled City’s name from the bowl instead. But in the draw for the next tie, against Atlético, Uefa’s deputy general secretary, Giorgio Marchetti, incorrectly stated that United had already been drawn and their ball was not placed in the bowl with those teams eligible to play the Spanish champions. Video evidence also showed that Liverpool had been incorrectly placed in the bowl to face Atlético when the teams were ineligible to meet having been in the same group.

United did not challenge the botched draw, despite a daunting assignment against PSG, and left Uefa to consider its options. Atlético, who were initially drawn to face Bayern Munich, announced they were in talks with Uefa “to ask for explanations and a solution after the mistakes made”. Shortly after, European football’s governing body released a statement that read: “Following a technical problem with the software of an external service provider that instructs the officials as to which teams are eligible to play each other, a material error occurred in the draw … As a result of this, the draw has been declared void and will be entirely redone.”

None of the English clubs had misgivings over the decision to redraw. Jürgen Klopp insisted it was the correct course of action, the Liverpool manager saying: “I saw it live and I thought: ‘You cannot let it stand like this, there’s no chance.’ Definitely, they had to do it again.” Manchester City’s manager, Pep Guardiola, speaking at a press conference between the two draws, said: “I think it is fair [TO REDRAW]. It was a mistake but sometimes these things can happen. If there was a mistake you have to repeat so it is not suspicious.”

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