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United expected to ride off into sunset in quarter-finals

As draws go it was the sort which one might ordinarily expect to see in a Western.

Moyes was delighted just to be in the draw. Picture: Reuters
Moyes was delighted just to be in the draw. Picture: Reuters

At a little before High Noon, the names of eight clubs were read out in pairs and the quarter-finals for this season's Champions League confirmed. Once the dust had settled it would be Manchester United that were left feeling for an extra hole in their ponchos given their hopes of progression in Europe appeared to be shot by a draw with Bayern Munich.

The Germans are the holders of the trophy and seem to be clinging to it with all the expediency of a limpet suffering from abandonment issues. Arsenal were swept aside in the last round, while the Bundesliga has been subjugated by a lead of 23 points in the league table. That has left Bayern to take aim at the next stage of the Champions League; it is expected that they will pull the trigger on United without much of a fuss.

It was perhaps typical that David Moyes should defend his side against the perception that they are not quite up to it. This has been his position since he was appointed in July. It would be unkind to suggest that United's players will be running scared of a two-legged tie with the German champions, and also inaccurate in the case of Robin van Persie. He will be out for up to six weeks after suffering a sprained knee in the second-leg win over Olympiakos on Wednesday night and is now expected to miss both legs of the tie with Bayern.

A tie with Pep Guardiola's side - in which United will place in Munich in the second leg - carries both the threat of heavy defeat and promise of ridicule. A Twitter account that was supposedly for Chelsea supporters congratulated Bayern on reaching the semi-finals of the Champions League just moments after yesterday's draw was made. The Stamford Bridge side are faced with the similarly daunting prospect of a tie with Paris Saint-Germain.

The campaign has exposed a few ugly truths about this United side already, though, and so Moyes was inclined instead to marvel at the beauty of watching his team drawn among the last eight. "I was thrilled we were in that draw and we're in the quarter-finals of the Champions League," said the United manager. "When we were 2-0 down to Olympiakos a week or so ago, I don't think a lot of people were putting us through to the quarter-final draw.

"So in a lot of ways it didn't matter who I drew. But I've got to say I've drawn out the favourites and the holders of the cup competition as well so it's a really tough draw for us, but one that I'm looking forward to."

He perhaps has little choice. A win in the final is likely the only route that United have left to gain entry to the Champions League next season as they are fully 12 points outside the qualifying places in the Premier League table.

There are implications financially for the club too, since failing to reach the competition next season could cost the club around £50m. Officials at Old Trafford intend to spend big on at least four marquee signings this term but already fees for players are being driven up by the spending power of such as PSG and Barcelona, who were drawn against compatriots Atletico Madrid. Real Madrid will face Borussia Dortmund.

It is understood, however, that United officials are also confident that rises in commercial income will make up for the financial impact of missing out on Europe's premier contest and allow Moyes and the club to attract the top players. Even if they might like a few dollars more.

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