Ferguson’s Manchester United side were drawn against his old adversary Jose Mourinho’s Real Madrid in a Champions League contest that will see Cristiano Ronaldo return to Old Trafford for the first time.
The two managers had a tradition of sharing a glass of red after their teams’ encounters in the Premier League – though Ferguson described the first wine Mourinho ever provided him as being “like paintstripper”.
Mourinho made amends with a £300 bottle of Portuguese red the next time around, and the last-16 match in the Champions League should be as mouthwatering as the wine.
Ferguson told the club’s official website: “Well, it’s the tie of the round. It’s a great opportunity for our fans to see Cristiano again and also for me to meet up with Jose again – I’ll need to order some good wine!”
United will hope there was a lucky omen in the draw – their one victory over Real Madrid in the European Cup was the year they first won the final, also at Wembley where next year’s final will be held, in 1968.
But United have learned to fear players called Ronaldo from this club in this competition. The Brazilian striker took the honours when the clubs last faced each other in 2003, scoring a hat-trick at Old Trafford as Real went through 6-5 on aggregate.
Rio Ferdinand played in the 2003 match against Real, as did Ryan Giggs, while Darren Fletcher was a substitute though he did not come on.
Ferdinand welcomed the draw on Twitter saying: “Oh yes, Madrid!! What a great couple a games that’ll be!! @Cristiano see u soon bro!!”
Emilio Butragueno, Real Madrid’s director of institutional relations, said it would be a special match for Ronaldo – and for the two managers.
He said on www.uefa.com: “I am sure it will be a special game for him. He’s a great professional. I’m sure he’s going to do his best to help us qualify. It’s going to be very, very special for him.
“It will be a thrilling experience for everyone. Manchester United are not only a great team but a great organisation known around the world.
“But we know it’s going to be tough, Sir Alex Ferguson has been there over 25 years and he’s a fantastic manager – he knows how to get the best out of his players and they have top players, but we are Real Madrid and we will try our best.
“I know the coaches have a great relationship. We are very happy with him [Mourinho] and I hope he’s going to lead the team to the Champions League to make our fans feel proud of the team.”
The only other English side Arsenal will face last season’s beaten finalists Bayern Munich while Celtic will take on Italian champions Juventus as they look for a place in the quarter-finals.
In the other matches, Barcelona will take on AC Milan, German champions Borussia Dortmund face Shakhtar Donetsk, Valencia play Paris Saint-Germain, Porto encounter Spanish side Malaga and Galatasaray will come up against Schalke.
United have a slight advantage over Real in that as group winners they will get to play the second leg at home.
Arsenal and Celtic, who were group runners-up, will both play the second legs away.
Arsene Wenger’s Gunners last met at Bayern Munich at the same stage in 2005, with the German side progressing 3-2 on aggregate.
It will mean a meeting for Lukas Podolski with one of his former clubs and he acknowledged Bayern’s Champions League pedigree.
“They played in the final in 2010 and last year,” he told the club’s website. “It’s a big club but we have the chance to win against Bayern Munich.”
Celtic boss Neil Lennon called his side’s draw against Juventus “a beauty” but very tough.
Lennon told Sky Sports News: “Well in terms of glamour it’s a beauty. Juventus are one of the great traditional European teams. They’re current Italian champions and finished the group stage very strongly. So in terms of glamour it’s great, in terms of qualification it is going to very tough, but it could have been any of the other teams and it would have been just as tough.
“It’s very exciting for me as a young manager to be in this position, to sit there and watch the draw today. It’s come very early in my managerial career but I’ll never forget today. Now we can prepare for the challenge of facing Juventus.”
United will play the first leg at the Bernabeu on February 13 with the return at Old Trafford on March 5.
Arsenal will play a week later with the first leg at the Emirates Stadium on February 19 and the second at the Allianz Arena in Munich on March 13.
Celtic will take on Juventus at Celtic Park on February 12, with the return leg in Turin on March 6.