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Last time Manchester United were drawn in the same Champions League group with Villarreal in the 2005-06 season, most fans and pundits predicted a stroll into the last 16 of the competition with Lille and Benfica also looking as little more than stepping stones for Sir Alex Ferguson’s men.
United finished bottom of the group and bowed out of Europe before the winter break after a dreadful run including a pair of 0-0 draws with Villarreal while the Spanish side reached the semi-finals in their Champions League debut.
Should the English and European champions be worried that history might repeat itself after a third barren stalemate with Villarreal in this season’s Group E opener at Old Trafford on Wednesday?
Ferguson, who seemed unaffected by a largely lacklustre perfromance in his post-match comments, believes it was a mere glitch ahead of matches with Danish rivals Aalborg and familiar foes Celtic.
It is has already been dubbed the league title no one wants to win and with its succession of mishaps, slip-ups, fall-outs and injuries, this season’s Primera Liga plot has taken more twists than even the most low-budget Spanish afternoon soap opera.
Leaders and defending champions Real Madrid appear to be caught in a dangerous downward spiral, losing five of their last eight league matches, while Barcelona are struggling to take advantage of their arch-rivals’ errors.