SWITZERLAND, February 26 – Eternal rivals Manchester United and Liverpool were drawn together in the Europa League last 16 in Nyon on Friday.
It is the first time the two most successful teams in English history have been drawn together in European competition.
United have won the English title 20 times and the Champions League three times, compared to 18 and five for Liverpool.
Between the pair they have won 18 European trophies, including the Super Cup.
The draw delighted Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp.
“It’s great. We deserve these games,” he said.
“Obviously it is not easy but you can ask my staff but when they asked me yesterday who I wanted, I said ‘Man United’.
“I think we have to clear something. We had a good game when we lost 1-0 (in the league) but it was not what we deserved.
“It gives us a chance to make it better and that is what we will try to do.
“There were no easy games in this round so there was no chance for an easy game. Man United — cool.”
Before then, Liverpool travel to Wembley to face Manchester City in the League Cup final on Sunday.
“With the draw today it seems like it is Liverpool against Manchester — like always — but now in really important games,” added Klopp.
The plum tie of the round will see United, who have never won the competition, head to Anfield on March 10 before hosting the Reds at Old Trafford a week later.
United’s players seem as excited as Klopp, with goalkeeper David De Gea writing on Twitter: “C’mon”.
Dutchman Daley Blind added on Manutd.com: “It’s a busy schedule coming up again and Liverpool will be a great game to play in, especially as it’s now in the Europa League.
“You’re either in or out, through to the next round or not, so it’s very important for us. They will say it’s important for them too so we have to show that we want it more.”
– ‘Great draw’ -Ex-Liverpool defender Jamie Carragher, now a pundit on British Sky Sports, took to Twitter to stoke the rivalry in a jovial fashion.
“Great Europa League draw for LFC, if we win happy days if we lose LVG will probably stay!!” he said, referring to United manager Louis van Gaal, who has probably been more popular on Merseyside than in Manchester this season due to United’s troubles.
United reached this stage thanks to their come-from-behind 5-1 win over Danes Midtylland on Thursday in which debutant teenager Marcus Rashford scored a brace to held the Red Devils to a 6-3 aggregate victory.
Liverpool scored early but then limped to a 1-0 win over Germans Augsburg to progress by the same score on aggregate.
Three-time former winners Liverpool last won the competition in its previous guise as the UEFA Cup in 2001.
In another single-country draw, former Manchester United full-back Gary Neville’s Valencia will take on Athletic Bilbao.
Holders Sevilla faced a kinder draw against Basel, where this season’s final will be held, but there was nothing kind about Borussia Dortmund being paired with Tottenham Hotspur.
It was a tough draw for the Germans as Bayer Leverkusen plucked Villarreal out of the hat while former winners Shakhtar Donetsk and Anderlecht were paired.
Shakhtar won the competition in 2008 while Sevilla have triumphed four times in the last 10 years.
Valencia lifted the trophy in 2004 while Athletic were runners-up in 2012.
Tottenham are twice former winners of the UEFA Cup while Dortmund were beaten finalists on two occasions.
Shakhtar Donetsk (UKR) v Anderlecht (BEL)
Basel (SUI) v Sevilla (ESP)
Villarreal (ESP) v Bayer Leverkusen (GER)
Athletic Bilbao (ESP) v Valencia (ESP)
Liverpool (ENG) v Manchester United (ENG)
Sparta Prague (CZE) v Lazio (ITA)
Borussia Dortmund (GER) v Tottenham Hotspur (ENG)
Fenerbahce (TUR) Sporting Braga (POR)
Ties to be played on March 10 and 17