On the face of it, there could be few more daunting challenges for Sami Hyypiä on his competition debut as a coach but then again, the former Finland centre back is no stranger either to Champions League glory or the atmosphere inside Manchester United's stadium.
Familiar territory for Hyypiä
As well as helping Liverpool FC to memorably claw back a three-goal deficit on the way to a penalty shoot-out victory over AC Milan in the 2004/05 final, Hyypiä ran out many a time against the Merseyside club's bitter rivals United over the course of his decade-long sojourn in England.
Now he returns in charge of a Leverkusen side who have won four of their five Bundesliga outings in the current campaign, spearheaded by blisteringly on-form duo and , and who will run out against the Premier League champions guardedly confident about their ability to take something from, on paper, the fiercest challenge in an altogether strong-looking Group A.
Big change at the top for United
"United are the odds-on favourites. We're going there as underdogs," skipper Simon Rolfes acknowledged in the wake of Saturday's hard-earned 3-1 victory over Wolfsburg. "We're playing an interesting system, heavily based on counter-attacking. If we get those kind of situations, we could pose them a few problems."
Hosts United have had a few teething problems of their own this season, hardly surprisingly perhaps given the seismic shift represented by the summer departure of their legendary manager Alex Ferguson after more than a quarter of a century in the Old Trafford hot seat. Under his successor, David Moyes, the Red Devils have taken seven points from their opening four league games, the three most recent coming in a rather pedestrian 2-0 home victory over Crystal Palace FC.
Hyypiä deadpan, Rolfes pragmatic
Leverkusen meanwhile will definitely be without midfield duo Gonzalo Castro and Jens Hegeler due to muscle-related problems, but Lars Bender is back in the squad after recovering from a hip injury and reckons "there's nothing to stop me playing."
Home coach Moyes is certainly taking nothing for granted in this one, and overall he believes the Champions League has become "more unpredictable than it was. We've got a leading team from Germany, one from Spain (Real Sociedad de Futbol) and we go to Donetsk to play Shakhtar. It's a tough group."
His ever-laconic counterpart Hyypiä, meanwhile, noted tongue-in-cheek that "I hope my players want to play football in Manchester and not just get autographs from [Wayne] Rooney." Addressing the related topic of big-game atmosphere and mentality, Rolfes for his part pointed out that "it's not like we're a bunch of Under-19s who've never played in front of a crowd of more than a thousand."
Manchester United: De Gea - Fabio da Silva, Ferdinand, Vidic, Evra - Valencia, Carrick, Giggs, A. Young - van Persie, Rooney
Leverkusen: Leno - Donati, Toprak, Spahic, Boenisch - Bender, Reinartz, Rolfes - Sam, Kießling, Son