In the modern era of Europe’s premier club competition, Manchester United have had many defining moments (not least two glorious victories in 1999 and 2008) but the visit of Galatasaray to Old Trafford in Champions League Matchday 1 will being back memories of one of the club’s most chastising experiences.
After ending a 26-year wait for a top flight title in 1993, the newly crowned Premier League champions embarked on their first ever Champions League campaign with much optimism but an away goals defeat to Wednesday’s opponents left scars – both mental and physical – that have lived long in the memory.
A 3-3 draw at Old Trafford left United needing to win at the Ali Sami Yen Stadium to progress to the third round, but the fact the second leg finished 0-0 barely tells the story of a night that has been written into folklore. ‘Welcome to Hell’ read the banners that greeted United’s players and travelling contingent, and Sir Alex Ferguson has gone on record as saying the banner was 100% right: in the most hostile of atmospheres, United players were subjected to police brutality, while 164 fans were locked up in horrendous conditions for little reason other than they were English.
Ferguson’s men have only kept one home clean sheet in their last seven Champions League matches (against a poor Otelul Galati outfit) and free-scoring Gala can find the net.
But apart form that, United’s performance was so poor, even by Ferguson’s admission, that it brought about a re-think about how to tackle European football and now in their 19th consecutive season of Champions League football, it was a lesson that United went on to heed.
That said, to look at last season’s European campaign, you could be forgiven for thinking the Red Devils might need a refresher course. Failure to progress from a group that included Benfica, Basel and Otelul Galati was nothing short of embarrassing for Ferguson’s men, and once you take into account the Europa League defeat to Athletic Bilbao, United had as poor a season in Europe as can be remembered.
It means Ferguson will be looking to make amends this year, and you would have to say a group of Galatasaray, Cluj and Sporting Braga should cause them few problems.
The bookies at bwin aren’t expecting any problems on Wednesday, making United the 7/25 favourites to kick off Group H with a win. The draw is 9/2 and Gala are big outsiders at 33/4, but although United should win, the Turks are not without talent.
Galatasaray, who compete in the Champions League group stage for the first time since 2006/07, come to Old Trafford as Turkish champions after winning the Super Lig in comfortable fashion last term, and will travel to Manchester with confidence. Fatih Terim’s side have started this year in similar fashion and currently top their domestic table after three wins and a draw from their four matches, scoring 12 goals in the process, and may make things a little bit more uncomfortable for United than the odds imply.
Ferguson’s men have only kept one home clean sheet in their last seven Champions League matches (against a poor Otelul Galati outfit) and free-scoring Gala can find the net. United, though, have plenty of firepower of their own and having scored ten goals in their last three games should prevail. But 7/25 is no price, so take the 29/10 that United win 2-1, 3-1 or 4-1.
Recommended bet: Manchester United to win 2-1, 3-1 or 4-1 @ 29/10
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