Manchester United lost their 100% record in the Champions League this year with a 1-0 defeat to Turkish side Galatasaray SK in Istanbul. This was the fourth successive Champions League game that United had conceded the first goal, coming back to win the other three, but Sir Alex Ferguson’s young side could not pull off the comeback this time.
With qualification already clinched, Sir Alex rested established first team players Rio Ferdinand, Ryan Giggs, Paul Scholes and Patrice Evra as well as Rooney and De Gea who had returned to training on Monday, but did not feature in the squad. Carrick was once again dropped back into central defence, along with Phil Jones, making his first appearance since the last day of last season, Rafael and Buttner. Sir Alex handed a debut, both in Europe and in a United starting line up, to Nick Powell in midfield, alongside Anderson, Cleverley and Fletcher whilst Welbeck partnered Hernandez up front.
The first chance of the game fell to Powell on 2 mins after a wayward pass found Welbeck on the edge of the box. He cut back inside, in trademark fashion and set up Powell for a side-footed effort that deflected tamely into the arms of Muslera.
Galatasaray edged back into the game over the next 15 minutes, looking particularly dangerous from first a corner, and then a free kick both played along the six yard box. Whilst the makeshift central defensive pairing were always likely to be the target of Turkish attacks from set pieces, United’s marking was somewhere between shocking and non-existent and Galatasaray should have taken the lead.
United continued to attempt to control midfield, playing narrowly as a consequence of having no wingers on the field, however the hosts broke up play whenever possible by fair means and foul – Felipe Melo particularly guilty of the latter, repeatedly scything Cleverley down then pleading innocence to the referee.
The best chance of the first half for either side came just three minutes from half time as Nick Powell found himself running on to a wicked corner from Cleverley, alone at the back post, only to power his bullet-like header off the bar and back in to play.
After the break Galatasaray started brightly, pushing noticeably higher into United’s half keen to get the goal which would keep them in pole position for qualification in second place from the group. Their first chance came courtesy of ex-bin-dipper Albert Riera with a shot from the edge of the box after a throw in from the right which was easily saved by Lindegaard who then made a superb reactionary save a few minutes later from a Felipe Melo header just a few yards out.
Galatasaray scored from the resulting corner, Burak Yilmaz outjumping Darren Fletcher to power a header into the corner of Lindegaard’s goal and ignite the Turkish crowd. Yet more careless defending from a set piece.
United should have equalised five minutes later as a 3 on 2 break in the reds’ favour saw Welbeck play Hernandez in in front of goal, only for him to attempt to shift the ball out from under his feet and see the chance disappear. As mentioned many times before in these match reports, Hernandez continues to look like a natural footballer any time he doesn’t have time to consider his actions – and has a tendency to fall over his own feet more often than not when he does.
With seventeen minutes to go Sir Alex made changes, bringing Kiko Macheda and Ashley Young on for Nick Powell and Anderson. Powell, whilst bright in spells, for the most part looked overwhelmed. His first touch was poor, as was his tracking of his opposite number when Galatasaray broke quickly. Macheda, as anyone who suffers though his diva-esque performances in the reserves each game will have been able to predict, repeatedly lost the ball, made dead-end runs, and may as well have had a red and yellow shirt on.
With 10 minutes to go, Galatasaray nearly struck again as a 25 yard drive from Altintop was tipped onto the bar by Lindegaard. Sir Alex made his last change with just a few minutes left to go as Welbeck was substituted for Josh King, the young Norwegian striker making his Champions League debut in his second appearance for United.
Obviously the stark difference in this game was in the attitudes of the respective players after half time when Galatasaray had something to play for and United were there to make up the numbers. The young side will have learned a great deal from 90 minutes in such a hostile atmosphere, nevertheless, to concede another goal due to shoddy defending from a set piece, regardless of whether the game matters, will not please Ferguson or the fans.
Check out @BeautifullyRed‘s top 5 moments from the game here: