Preview: Man United set for another fiery match against Galatasaray in Champions League

AP , Tuesday 28 Nov 2023

If it wasn’t the “Welcome to Hell” signs at the airport, it was the bell boy at the team hotel performing a throat-slitting gesture as the players arrived.

Manchester United
Manchester United s Argentinian midfielder #17 Alejandro Garnacho celebrates scoring his team first goal during the English Premier League football match between Everton and Manchester United at Goodison Park in Liverpool, north west England on November 26, 2023. AFP

Or the deliberately timed phone calls during the night to disrupt sleep, and the mud and flags thrown at the bus to the stadium.

Or the riot police bundling players down the steps to the locker room with their shields after the match.

Manchester United’s first Champions League match against Galatasaray at the Turkish team’s Ali Sami Yen Stadium has gone down in lore. Thirty years later, United is back in Istanbul and again fighting to stay in the competition — something it failed to do back in 1993.

“It was probably the most intimidating atmosphere I ever played in,” then-United midfielder Bryan Robson has said.

United’s players probably thought their Premier League match on Sunday against a fired-up Everton seething with resentment at the perceived injustice of a 10-point sanction for financial mismanagement was a tough gauntlet to run.

Wednesday’s match against Galatasaray promises to be as — if not more — fiery.

There’s plenty on the line, too, like there was in 1993 when United could only draw 0-0 and was eliminated on away goals after a 3-3 draw at Old Trafford to miss out on a place in the group stage.

This time, a defeat would end United’s chances of reaching the round of 16, with Erik ten Hag’s team having lost three of its first four Group A matches — including at home to Galatasaray on Oct. 3.

United starts the game in last place on three points, one behind both Galatasaray and FC Copenhagen. Bayern Munich is on 12 and has already qualified as group winner ahead of its home match against Copenhagen.

United has played away to Galatasaray twice in the Champions League since 1993 but wasn’t in the same qualification jeopardy in those trips.

Former United midfielder Mike Phelan said the team’s senior players need to step up.

“In big games and occasions, you need your big players,” said Phelan, who played in that game in Istanbul 30 years ago. “I think you’ve got to control the game because you can’t control the atmosphere.

“You might be able to, in a little way, if your retention of the ball is good and you’re not making mistakes, then you control the game, control the ball, and that can silence the crowd — don’t encourage the crowd.”

Galatasaray, which is second in the Turkish league and only behind Fenerbahce on goal difference, has a former United player in winger Wilfried Zaha in its team and has plenty of players with experience of English soccer. Tanguy Ndombele and Davinson Sanchez — who both played for Tottenham — and ex-Arsenal midfielder Lucas Torreira are igniting their careers after struggles in the Premier League while attackers Dries Mertens and Mauro Icardi have big-game experience with former clubs Napoli and Paris Saint-Germain, in particular.

Marcus Rashford will be missing for United because he is serving a one-match ban after getting sent off against Copenhagen last time out, though Rasmus Hojlund might return from injury after being spotted in training on Tuesday.

United appears to have turned the corner somewhat after an underwhelming start to the season, winning three of its last four games — all in the Premier League — either side of the 4-3 loss at Copenhagen that left the team’s Champions League ambitions in such peril.

(For more sports news and updates, follow Ahram Online Sports on Twitter at @AO_Sports and on Facebook at AhramOnlineSports.)

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