Welcome to … Moss Lane! Not quite, although Sir Alex Ferguson is seemingly taking Manchester United’s trip to face Galatasaray in Turkey about as seriously as an under-21 fixture in Altrincham. The Scot’s party of 21 players departed Manchester on Monday morning containing no fewer than seven men yet to make an appearance in European football. With United comfortably qualified for the knockout stages, Ferguson is bent on resting his first team ahead of key domestic fixtures to come.
Ferguson’s selection threatens to turn a frequently hostile atmosphere, and sometimes antagonistic match, into the dead rubber it has become for the visitors. Yet, with three teams locked together in Group H, there is nothing lifeless about the occasion for Galatasaray, for who victory would be a major stepping stone out of the group and into the round of 16.
Meanwhile, Sir Alex’ selection is unlikely to go down well in Braga, who did not benefit from such generosity of United’s spirit over the recent double-header, although the Reds’ defending almost made up for it. But if the Scot’s men are to get anything out of the 3300 mile round trip, they will do so without Wayne Rooney, Rio Ferdinand, Ryan Giggs, Paul Scholes, David De Gea and Robin van Persie.
Indeed, it is out with the old and in with the inexperienced, as Nick Powell, Larnell Cole, Davide Petrucci, Ryan Tunnicliffe, Joshua King and Marnick Vermijl come into the squad. Two, Tom Thorpe and Sam Johnstone, are yet to make their club debuts in any competition.
“We don’t consider the young players a gamble,” said Ferguson in defence of his squad selection.
“What we do consider is our reputation and we have to be fair to the other teams in the group. When we discussed the team for tomorrow we had to give serious consideration to how the media and the public would react, so we had to think hard about the team we picked. It will be a good occasion to see our young players introduce themselves to the public and the media. Our aim is to win.”
Injuries continue to play a part in Ferguson’s choices, with captain Nemanja Vidić and Shinji Kagawa on the sidelines through injury until Christmas. Yet, Phil Jones traveled with the squad to Turkey and could start in his first United match of the season. Meanwhile, Darren Fletcher should feature in just his fifth game this campaign, as the Scot makes a slow and painful recovery from a chronic bowel complaint.
“It’s a big day for Phil Jones,” said Sir Alex.
“He’s been out all season but he’s done enough training now to make sure his fitness is okay. I’m looking forward to bringing him back. Phil’s had different types of injuries. He had concussion, he had a rib injury, but he’s young so he’s still to develop physically in terms of his body. He’s only 20 years of age so there’s plenty of time for him.”
“Shinji Kagawa’s progress has been quite slow. He’s not started any outside work and we’re looking at another four weeks away, which is disappointing.”
Still, while United may be without a rash of keys players the home support is likely to keep the atmosphere hot. It will be a severe test of United’s inexperienced squad.
The old Ali Sami Yen is no longer in use, although Gala’s sparkling new Türk Telekom Arena will play host to more than 50,00 spectators. The plush surroundings have seemingly had no ill-effect on the local’s capacity to generate noise. Cimbom’s fans were recorded at more than 130 decibels last season – about the same as a jet at 100 feet.
However, Fatih Terim’s side has taken just a point from two Group H home fixtures to date and has not won at home in Europe
in five matches, since beating Panathinaikos in the Europa League in December 2009. Gala lost 3-1 to Karabükspor at the weekend.
Still, with a youthful opponent in town, Terim is well aware of the opportunity for progression this season in a match the 59-year-old coach is billing as key to Gala’s season.
“I don’t understand why the media are focusing on Manchester United’s Istanbul squad,” said the former international striker.
“We shouldn’t dwell too much on it because it’s still Man Utd who you’re facing in the end. It’s clear that this match is one of the most important games in Galatasaray’s history. Hopefully, tomorrow we’ll see a historic night at Ali Sami Yen Spor Kompleksi. I am sure that the fans will be putting a lot of effort into their preparations for the game and will support us until the final whistle.”
That whistle is unlikely to bring the drama of United’s first encounter with Galatasaray in the Turkish capital – a night on which Ferguson’s side was knocked out of Europe and Eric Cantona saw red. Yet, with a full-house and electric atmosphere, it is likely to be another unforgettable experience – at least for those youngsters taking part.
Galatasaray AŞ v Manchester United – Champions League, Ali Sami Yen Spor Kompleksi – Tuesday 20 November 2012, 7.45pm
Galatasaray (4-4-2): Muslera; Eboué, Nounkeu, Cris, Balta; Altıntop, İnan, Melo, Çolak; Elmander, Bulut. Subs from: Ceylan, Zan, Nounkeu, Sarıoğlu, Riera, Yılmaz, Kurtuluş, Baytar, Amrabat, Baroš, Yıldırım.
United (4-2-2-2): Lindegaard; Vermijl, Jones, Wootton, Buttner; Cleverley, Carrick, Fletcher, Anderson; Hernandez, Welbeck. Subs from: Johnstone, Thorpe, Rafael, Petrucci, Cole, King, Macheda, Tunnicliffe, Powell, Young.
Officials (All ESP)
Referee: Carlos Velasco Carballo
Assistant referees: Roberto Alonso, Juan Carlos Yuste Jiménez
Additional assistant referees: César Muñiz, Carlos Del Cerro Grande
Fourth official: Roberto Díaz Pérez del Palomar
Head to Head
Last 10: Galatasaray 0, United 2, Draw 3
Overall: Galatasaray 0, United 2, Draw 3