SIR Alex Ferguson believes Manchester United’s Champions League group is the hardest of all England’s four contenders.
While Besiktas, Wolfsburg and CSKA Moscow would not appear to present the most arduous challenge in themselves, the additional travelling will certainly present a test.
The difficulties have already begun, with Ferguson confirming the Reds will remain in London on September 12 after their Barclays Premier League encounter with Tottenham at White Hart Lane and head to Istanbul the following morning.
Moscow will be just as difficult, even if a return to the Luzhniki Stadium brings back happy memories of their penalty shoot-out triumph over Chelsea to win the competition in 2008.
On this occasion though, United must face the additional problem of an artificial surface England failed to master as they were eliminated from Euro 2008.
With the presence of Bundesliga winners Wolfsburg demanding respect as well, Ferguson has no hesitation in declaring United’s draw to be a difficult one.
“We were talking about it beforehand and saying we didn’t want to go to Russia because of the length of the journey - and Turkey is the same. Then we get the two of them,” he said.
“Russian teams have improved a tremendous amount in the last few years. There has been a big financial investment and a lot of Brazilian players are there. It is on Astroturf as well so that will be hard.
“We have had experiences of Turkey in the past. It is never easy going there because the atmosphere is quite volatile.
“The last game is away to Wolfsburg, who won the German championship last year.
“The Champions League has had a tremendous amount of quality in it but this is the most difficult group of the English teams.”
The coach of German champions Wolfsburg has all but admitted his team are playing for second place behind Manchester United in their Champions League group.
Wolfsburg, who topped the Bundesliga last season, could be tricky opponents for United but their coach Armin Veh is tipping the Reds as potential winners of the whole tournament.
And Veh admits his team's challenge will be to eliminate CSKA Moscow and Besiktas.
He said: "Manchester United are not only big favourites in our group but for the Champions League title itself.
"But we want to qualify for the knockout stage so we have to oust CSKA Moscow and Besiktas. Of course, our opponents have much more experience in Europe than we have, but we still hope to make our mark on the Champions League."
CSKA midfielder Evgeniy Aldonin declared it will be a privilege and the fulfilment of a personal ambition when he gets the chance to play United.
"I am happy we got Manchester United as I've always wanted to face them," Aldonin said.
"Year on year United are one of the best clubs in Europe - they have been in the last two UEFA Champions League finals."
While some of Manchester United's Champions League opponents are convinced Sir Alex Ferguson's side are heading for the knockout stages, Besiktas midfielder Yusuf Simsek is not prepared to concede defeat to anyone.
Simsek told uefa.com Besiktas are capable of beating every team in the group.
"We, like the other teams, have a real chance of progressing from our group," he said.
"Manchester United are world giants but Besiktas have beaten Chelsea in the Champions League before 1/8in 20033/8. We have the strength and desire to beat any team in the group."
United's Champions League fixtures:
Besiktas (A) Tuesday September 15
Wolfsburg (H) Wednesday September 30
CSKA Moscow (A) Wednesday October 21
CSKA Moscow (H) Tuesday November 3
Besiktas (H) Wednesday November 25
Wolfsburg (A) Tuesday December 8