NYON (Switzerland) • Manchester United were given a kind draw in the Champions League play-offs as they were paired with Belgium's Club Brugge yesterday.
The three-time former winners, making their return to Europe's premier club competition after a one-year hiatus, will play the first leg at their Old Trafford home on Aug 18-19.
In other pairings, Spaniards Valencia, finalists in 2000 and 2001, drew 2004 finalists Monaco of France while the clash of the round sees Italians Lazio up against Germany's Bayer Leverkusen, beaten finalists in 2002.
United failed to qualify for European competition last season having finished seventh in the English Premier League last year under former coach David Moyes.
But Louis van Gaal led them to fourth in the table last season, giving them the chance to earn a place back in the Champions League, a competition they last won in 2008 during a run of three finals in four seasons (the last being a defeat by Barcelona in 2011).
"There are no mugs at this stage," said United's assistant manager Ryan Giggs. "It will be difficult for us, especially with it being early on in the season, but we are ready for it.
"It was a massive void last year not being in it, so this year it's good to be back in the mix."
Club Brugge are the only Belgian side to reach the European Cup or Champions League final, losing 1-0 to United's bitter domestic rivals Liverpool in 1978.
In the other League Route pairings, Sporting Lisbon will have the chance to gain revenge on CSKA Moscow, who beat them in the 2005 Uefa Cup at the Portuguese outfit's own Lisbon home ground.
The final pairing sees Austria's Rapid Vienna take on Ukraine's Shakhtar Donetsk while the pick of the Champions Route games saw 1967 winners Celtic drawn against 1979 finalists Malmo.
CHAMPIONS LEAGUE DRAW
Astana (Kaz) v Apoel (Cyp)
Skenderbeu (Alb) v Dinamo Zagreb (Cro)
Celtic (Sco) v Malmo (Swe)
Basel (Sui) v Maccabi Tel-Aviv (Isr)
Bate Borisov (Blr) v Partizan Belgrade (Srb)
Lazio (Ita) v Leverkusen (Ger)
Manchester United (Eng) v Club Brugge (Bel)
Sporting Lisbon (Por) v CSKA Moscow (Rus)
Rapid Vienna (Aut) v Shakhtar Donetsk (Ukr)
Valencia (Esp) v Monaco (Fra)
First legs: Aug 18-19
Second legs: Aug 25-26