London: Sir Alex Ferguson is relishing the prospect of his first European meeting with Dutch giants Ajax after Manchester United were handed a tricky opening Europa League draw on Friday.
Ferguson, whose United side were humiliatingly relegated to the Europa League after failing to progress past the Champions League first round, has never faced Ajax in more than 30 years of taking teams into Europe.
"Ajax are a good team and I've never faced them in competitive European football," Ferguson told ManUtd.com. "I'm looking forward to it."
United defender Chris Smalling was also keen to talk up United's last 32 opponents, who like the English club failed to qualify from the Champions League first phase.
"(Exiting the Champions League) was a massive disappoinment, but then you look at the calibre of teams that are in there (Europa League)," Smalling said.
"We have drawn Ajax, they have a lot of history. That will be a good test. If you are in there, a lot of the teams will be kicking on. Whoever wins the competition will be a good team."
United and Ajax met in the old UEFA Cup in the 1976/77 season, United progressing 2-1 on aggregate.
The winners of the tie will then face either Lokomotiv Moscow or Athletic Bilbao in the last 16.
United's Premier League rivals Manchester City meanwhile were also given a testing tie after being paired with 2004 Champions League winners FC Porto from Portugal.
If City prevail in their opening knockout match they could then face another trip to Portugal, with a tie against Sporting Lisbon or Legia Warsaw in the last 16.
The third English team left in the competition, Stoke City, received arguably the hardest draw after being picked to play Spanish side Valencia, who were eliminated from the Champions League first round.
The first legs will be played Februay 16, with the return matches scheduled for February 23.