After the much documented trials and tribulations of previous European campaign, Manchester United begin another European journey this midweek with the aim of reestablishing their supremacy and much importantly regaining their lost pride. Sir Alex Ferguson is a proud Scot and deep down it must rankle him no end that during his 26 year glorious stint at the Theatre of Dreams, Man United have been crowned the champions of Europe on just two occasions. Furthermore, the group stage exit last term must serve as a nadir in Sir Alex’s amazing stint and one can almost sense a desire to set the record straight.
Well, the draw seems favorable enough from the Red Devils’ prospective but that seemed to be the case last year as well. Be rest assured, complacency will not be the reason this term. Furthermore, the first game of the European extravaganza pits Fergie’s United against Turkish giants Galatasaray. Over the years, Man United have had some memorable games against Turkish opponents of which some have entered the United folklore for various reasons, especially the trips to the daunting and hostile Turkish stadiums with their famous partisan support vying for blood.
With the impending clash against Galatasaray fast approaching, we look back at some of these clashes between Ferguson’s Man United and clubs from Turkey.
Manchester United 3-3 Galatasaray, 1993: Epic Night at Old Trafford
Sir Alex had finally built a top side; after winning the league crown, he set his sight on the continent. Second stage of the Champions league pitted United against Reiner Hollmann’s Galatasaray. Home advantage in the first leg should have been made to count and the early signs were positive enough. Captain Marvel Robson put the home side ahead as early as in the 3rd minute with the help of a brilliant piece of skill at the edge of the box and Sukur’s 13th minute own goal made matters worse for the Turkish giants; Pallister made a nuisance of himself in the opposition box, hence forcing the error.
Arif Erdem pulled a goal back for the visitors with their first real attack of any conviction; a strike even the ‘Great Dane’ failed to get a hand to. Hollmann’s team sensed blood now and went all guns blazing at their much high profile opponents. United defence crumbled and the visitors restored parity soon. The Turks didn’t sit back, and instead went for the jugular and after the hour mark took the lead; Kubilay Türkyilmaz with his second of the night.
With time running out and United failing to convert their chances, nerves jangled and the supporters were almost hushed into silenced. But cometh the hour cometh man; Eric Cantona found a way past the determined Galatasaray rearguard and United scored their third of the night to salvage a draw. Ferguson though wasn’t pleased, an opportunity had gone amiss.
Galatasaray 0-0 Man United, 1993: Welcome To Turkish Hell
United had landed in hell and none of the players knew the reception they were in for. This was football at its partisan best or rather worst. Gary Neville to this day reckons that trip to Istanbul as the worst he has ever endured in terms of the sheer hostility from the crowd. United players were intimated when the landed in Turkey to posters of ‘Welcome to hell’ and ‘This is the end’; it surely wasn’t for the faint-hearted. Guarded with heavy security, the players made their way to the pitch to the sound of ear piercing chants by the home fans and smokes and glares galore. Volatile passionate crowd screaming their hearts and lungs out was indeed a sight to behold; unfortunately the match failed to live up to its billing and ended in a drab stalemate. Nevertheless, United too had a volatile character among their ranks, and Cantona snapped at the time wasting tactics deployed by the home side and kicked out, adding fuel to fire. Cantona was sent off after the final whistle as the players headed to the relative safety of their dressing room.
Man United 6-2 Fenerbache, 2004: The Wayne Rooney Bow
Man United had signed a sensational teenager named Wayne Rooney in the summer of 2004, after his mesmerizing displays in the Euros. However, an injury sustained in that very tournament delayed Wayne’s Premier League bow; little did we know back then that the wait would be well worth it. United’s marquee signing showed everyone why Sir Alex had splashed the cash to acquire his services; a display still regarded as possibly the best debut by a player wearing the United red.
Fenerbache goal keeper, the ever so flamboyant Rustu, had suggested Rooney wouldn’t get past him that night; Rooney took up the challenge and smashed three past the helpless Turk. The teenager’s first was a left footed shot off Rudd Van Nistelrooy’s precise pass; his second was a right-footed drive from outside the box and to cap it off, the boy sensation scored a sumptuous curling free kick to earmark his name in the annals of football history. It was the stuff of dreams and since then Rooney’s star has only risen.
Besiktas 0-1 Man United, 2009: Scholes Silences Another Hostile Crowd
It was Istanbul again but this time it was to play against Besiktas in the first Champions League game of the 2009-10 campaign. Although the team was different, the atmosphere in the ground was similar to what it was 16 years ago. No doubt, with all the improvements in the security guidelines brought in by the administrators, the hostility was lesser but still, it was enough to cause shivers running through the spines of any visiting side.
However, Besiktas, with all due respect, were a lot weaker in comparison to the Galatasaray outfit of 1993, while United, under the wily old Scot, had a much experienced team to deal with the pressure of a volatile atmosphere. The Red Devils started off brightly and tried to subdue the crowd by taking the game to the opposition but with all their initial pressure, they failed to create any clear cut opportunities as the teams headed into the break at 0-0.
The second half was much the same as Fergie’s men gave their all to find the all-important opening goal, while Besiktas were reduced to shots from distance. In the end, it was the one of the old guards of United that found a way to break the Turkish side’s resistance. Paul Scholes, who had been sent off in the league game at the weekend, made the headlines for all the right reasons as he headed in brilliantly after Nani’s shot had rebounded off the goalkeeper. Scholes’ goal proved to be the difference in the end as United finally broke their Istanbul hoodoo in the Champions League.
Man United 1-0 Bursaspor, 2010: Rooney Saga Proves A Dampener
Wayne Rooney announced that he was unwilling to sign a new contract at United as he felt that his ambitions were no longer matched by the club’s. Sir Alex Ferguson responded in the manner only he can with a sound bite that put the United striker on the back foot and galvanized the home support. The match was played in the shadow of the event and the hostility in the crowd was no longer directed towards the visiting team but one man who turned from hero to villain – Wayne Rooney was the center of the storm. Interestingly though, Rooney was nursing an injury and was not involved with the squad for the game.
Nevertheless, Ferguson and United needed three points against a dogged opponent determined to sit back and park the proverbial bus. Luis Nani, though, found a way and his inch perfect strike was enough to seal the victory. Wayne Rooney made a complete u-turn days later. Man United won the league crown and went on to reach the finals of the Champions league. However, that night game against Bursaspor will forever be remembered for the electricity in the crowd generated against one of their very own.