In this years Champions League group-stage draw, the Reds were drawn in Group H alongside Portugal’s SC Braga, Turkey’s Galatasaray and Romania’s CFR Cluj. So with a few unfamiliar teams and unknown quantities, RedMancunian’s Sam McHale has written a fact file to bring you up to date on everything you need to know about United’s group-stage opponents starting with Galatasaray SK.
After a disappointing three years between 2008/09 and 2010/11 – including a humiliating 8th placed finish in 2010/11 – a revitalised Galatasaray re-established themselves last season, winning the Turkish championship for an 18th time. Under the stewardship of the experienced Fatih Terim, the Super Lig champions will be looking to make it through to the knockout stages. One thing’s for sure: opposing teams won’t be relishing their trip to Istanbul safe in the knowledge that they will face an extremely hostile welcome; especially United who experienced the full wrath of the Galatasaray fans and the Turkish police on their visit to Istanbul in 1993.
- Last Season: 1st in Super Lig
- Previous CL best: Quarter-Finals in 1993/94 and 2000/01
- Stadium: Galatasaray moved from the Ali Sami Yen cauldron into an impressive new stadium in 2011, the Turk Telecom Arena which seats 52,652 spectators. It still promises to be another intimidating arena for the United players though: it holds the Guinness World Record for ‘largest crowd roar at a sports stadium’ after it recorded an ear-splitting 131.76 decibels in March 2011!
- Star Men: Galatasaray’s domestic success last season was built upon a watertight defence marshalled by Czech centre- back and former national-team captain, Tomas Ujfalusi. Now 33, Ujfalusi brings a wealth of experience to the back four having enjoyed successful spells with Fiorentina and Atletico Madrid: he was an integral member of the latter’s Europa League winning side in 2009/10. A special mention must also go to Uruguayan goalkeeper Fernando Muslera, who put in a string of impressive performances as Uruguay reached the semi-finals of the 2010 World Cup and kept 19 clean sheets for the club last season. In midfield, Felipe Melo is the fulcrum of the side; the Brazilian scoring 12 goals in his first season at the club since joining on loan from Italian giants Juventus last summer.
- Any familiar faces: Galatasaray boast a number of players with English connections. United fans will remember both Milan Baros and Albert Riera due to their spells with arch-rivals Liverpool. Swedish striker Johan Elmander – who scored 12 goals for Galatasaray last season – had a successful spell at Bolton whilst Ivorian right-back Emmanuel Eboue spent seven years at Arsenal.
- Manager: Fatih Terim is in his third spell in the managerial hot seat at Galatasaray and is something of a club legend having led them to four successive titles between 1996/97 and 1999/2000 and then returning last summer to lead them to an 18th title which drew them level with arch-rivals Fenerbahce for the most Super Lig titles. He has substantial managerial pedigree having also managed Italian giants Fiorentina and AC Milan as well as enjoying two stints in charge of the Turkish national team.
- Head to head record: United have met Galatasaray on four previous occasions and it’s fair to say they don’t have a great record against them. United have beaten them only once – a 4-0 win in December 1994 – and were knocked out of the European Cup by them on away goals in 1993/94. Having drawn 3-3 at Old Trafford in the first leg, United could only muster a 0-0 draw in the return leg; a game notable for the sheer hostility of the Turkish fans who welcomed United with their now infamous ‘Welcome to Hell’ banner.