The draw immediately raised fears about supporters of the Scottish champions returning to the city where 150,000 were present and many rioted on the night of the 2008 Uefa Cup final against Zenit St Petersburg, causing hundreds of thousands of pounds' worth of damage around the biggest of the fan zones, and injuring one policeman so badly that he needed six months off work.
The rioting lasted five hours and led to the then prime minister Gordon Brown branding the fans "a disgrace", with the first minister of Scotland, Alex Salmond, saying the violence was "shocking and unacceptable".
Two years on, there is enough bad feeling for the police to have grave concerns that there could be reprisals, as well as fears that the match could be a magnet for troublemakers. The bigger concern, however, is the prospect of a mass invasion of ticketless fans on 14 September and the police will give strong consideration to making it a high-risk, category C match.
The assistant chief constable Ian Hopkins said: "Greater Manchester police is extremely experienced at policing high-profile European football matches. We will be working in partnership with the clubs and football authorities to ensure this is a safe and enjoyable game for all."
United say they will liaise closely with the relevant authorities, but the club's chief executive, David Gill, tried to play down the concerns. "I don't think it's something we need to worry about. Clearly we have to work with the authorities and with Rangers, and as a club we will do that. But they will not be bringing the number of fans who came to the Uefa Cup final and we have to look positively at the game and look forward to it. [Sir] Alex [Ferguson] is delighted to have been drawn against Rangers and it should be a great occasion at both stadiums."
Nonetheless, the concerns are such that when Gary Neville, the United captain, wanted Rangers as the opposition for his testimonial match the idea was vetoed by the police and council officials. "That had nothing to do with us as a club, so it would not be fair for me to comment," Gill added.
Martin Bain, his opposite number at Rangers, said: "The circumstances then were totally different. Rangers and Manchester United know each other well and we have the right administration and the security people to make sure that things go accordingly. We've played United in the Champions League before [in 2003], and as far as I remember there was no great calamity.
"When we went to Manchester for the Uefa Cup final it was one of the biggest movements of people in Europe, 150,000 people descending on the city. Going down in those vast numbers was obviously a lot for any club and any city to deal with. I could understand David Gill being worried if 150,000 people were going to turn up for this one, but it won't happen."
Uefa has made it clear it will not contemplate a ban on away supporters, but the matter will be a priority when it holds a security workshop in Vienna on Wednesday. "On top of the usual delegates, we will send a security officer to both clubs to assess the situation," a spokesman commented. "They will speak to the clubs and to the police, and see how fans will be met at airports and stations, and where they will stay."
Ferguson, the United manager and a former Rangers striker, welcomed the tie. "Walter Smith [the Ibrox manager] has already been on the phone, talking about tickets for Old Trafford. Like me, he's really looking forward to our games against each other."
United and Rangers also have Valencia and the Turkish club Bursaspor to play in Group C, Tottenham will face Internazionale, Werder Bremen of Germany and the Dutch champions, FC Twente.
Arsenal and Chelsea, who make up London's three-strong contingent, will be confident of progressing to the last 16. They face Partizan Belgrade of Serbia, the Portuguese club Braga as well as a trip to Ukraine to play Shakhtar Donetsk. Chelsea have to get past Marseille, Spartak Moscow and Zilina of Slovakia.
The final will be played at Wembley in on 28 May and Ivan Gazidis, the Arsenal chief executive, claimed this is extra motivation for the capital's three clubs "There is a real incentive, especially the London clubs," he said. "It would be fantastic to play in the final in London and I know Spurs and Chelsea will feel the same way."
But Gazidis believes three English clubs will not reach the semi-finals, as occurred in 2008. He added: "It was probably an aberration when we had three."