Tough tests for Manchester clubs
Manchester City and Manchester United will both face difficult matches in the last 32 of the Europa League after Roberto Mancini's side drew holders Porto and their neighbours were paired with fellow Champions League dropouts Ajax.
The Barclays Premier League pair were among the biggest names to be edged out of the Champions League group stages, both finishing third and being parachuted into today's draw in Nyon.
While many expected the demotion to Europe's second tier would be a blow to the pair's prestige, both fixtures would not be out of place in the Champions League knockout phase.
Porto, who secured the trophy last year under the guidance of now Chelsea boss Andre Villas-Boas, host City in the first leg before a return fixture at the Etihad Stadium, while United will play in the Amsterdam ArenA first.
City and Ajax both found themselves in the Europa draw after being edged out of hard groups - City, finishing behind Bayern Munich and Napoli and the Eredivisie side missing out to Lyon and Real Madrid.
Both United and Porto were bettered by less fancied opposition, with Ferguson's side third behind Basel and Benfica and the Portuguese club edged by Apoel Nicosia and Zenit St Petersburg.
Another of the big-name Champions League fallers, Primera Division side Valencia, will face Stoke, with the first leg at the Britannia Stadium.
Lazio meet Atletico Madrid in another eye-catching fixture that will see one side fall well short of their expectations in the competition.
The three other drop-in sides from the Champions League - Viktoria Plzen, Trabzonspor and Olympiacos - have been matched with Schalke, PSV Eindhoven and Rubin Kazan respectively.
United boss Ferguson initially described dropping into the competition as a "penalty'', but later suggested he had been misunderstood.
Today, he joined defender Chris Smalling in welcoming the meeting with Ajax.
He said: "I have never played them before in competitive football in my managerial career. They are a good team and we are looking forward to it.''
Smalling added: "(Exiting the Champions League) was a massive disappoinment, but then you look at the calibre of teams that are in there (Europa League).
"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.''
UEFA Europa League Round of 32 and Round of 16 draw is as follows:
FC Porto v Man City
Ajax v Man Utd
Lokomotiv Moscow v Athletic Bilbao
SV Salzburg v Metalist Kharkiv
Stoke City v Valencia
Rubin Kazan v Olympiakos
AZ Alkmaar v Anderlecht
Lazio v Atletico Madrid
Steaua Bucharest v FC Twente
Plzen v FC Schalke
Wisla Krakow v Standard Liege
SC Braga v Besiktas
Udinese v PAOK
Trabzonspor v PSV
Hannover v Club Brugge
Legia Warsaw v Sporting
Round of 32 first leg matches will be played 16 February. Second leg matches will be played 23 February
SV Salzburg/Metalist v Rubin K/Olympiacos
Legia W/Sporting v Porto/Man City
Steaua/Twente v Plzen/Schalke
Wisla K/Standard L v Hannover/Club Brugge
Stoke/Valencia v Trabzonspor/PSV
Az Alkmaar/Andrelecht v Udinese/PAOK
Lazio/Atletico M v SC Braga/Besiktas
Ajax/Man Utd v Lokomotiv M/Ahtletic B
Round of 16 first leg matches will be played 8 March. Second leg matches will be played 16 March.