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Carrick's winner fails to hide United flaws

Thursday, 20 September 2012 - 11:54am IST | Place: Old Trafford | Agency: Daily Telegraph
Michael Carrick's seventh-minute winner, scoring from six yards after being sent tumbling to the ground by goalkeeper Fernando Muslera, ultimately proved enough for victory.

Manchester United 1 Galatasaray 0

It involved a trip, a stumble and a stutter, but Manchester United made a winning, if unconvincing, start to their Champions League campaign by narrowly overcoming Galatasaray.

Michael Carrick's seventh-minute winner, scoring from six yards after being sent tumbling to the ground by goalkeeper Fernando Muslera, ultimately proved enough for victory.

But United, wearing black armbands in memory of the two female Greater Manchester Police officers killed while on duty on Tuesday, would have been much more comfortable had Nani scored from the penalty spot on 52 minutes rather than fluff his lines with a futile stuttered run-up before seeing his effort saved.

Still, from United's perspective, a win is a win, particularly after last season's dismal return of one victory from five home games in Europe. Although 18 years had passed since United last faced Galatasaray, a 4-0 Champions League group stage victory at Old Trafford in December 1994, the name of the Turkish champions alone offered a stark reminder of past European failures.

Galatasaray infamously claimed United's scalp in the European Cup second round in 1993-94, when Eric Cantona clashed with baton-charging Turkish police in the Ali Sami Yen Stadium following an away-goals defeat, while a 0-0 draw in Istanbul the following year helped deny the English team a place in the knockout stage of that season's competition.

Ferguson conceded in his programme notes that any mention of Galatasaray is enough to trigger "cold sweats" at Old Trafford, but Champions League defeats on home turf against Fenerbahce and Besiktas also emphasised United's frailties against Turkish opposition. Lessons have been learned since last season's early exit, however, and the weakened teams that have contributed to United dropping points at this stage are, according to Ferguson, a risk that the manager is unwilling to take again.

The likes of Robin van Persie, Shinji Kagawa, Nemanja Vidic and Carrick were all in from the start, but it was Galatasaray who started strongest and the visitors should have been awarded a penalty inside the opening 60 seconds.

Vidic's challenge on Umut Bulut was typical of the United captain - robust and determined - but television replays showed that he scraped the back of Bulut's heel before diverting the ball to safety. German referee Wolfgang Stark was close enough to see the foul, but instead waved play on, to Galatasaray's displeasure.

United broke through six minutes later when Carrick scored his first Champions League goal for three years. The midfielder began the move by playing the ball to Van Persie, who returned instantly, allowing Carrick to lay it off to Kagawa. Another swift return ball from the Japanese set Carrick free in the area and although Muslera tripped the United player, he was able to scoop the ball into the net with his left leg - sparing the goalkeeper a certain red card for denying a clear scoring chance.

United failed to build on the goal, though, and the edginess which accompanied last season's dismal European campaign resurfaced as Galatasaray repeatedly caught the home side napping on the break.

Vast gaps between the back four and forward line encouraged Galatasaray forward, with Nordin Amrabat hitting the crossbar and Hamit Altintop twice going close from 18 yards. He was a constant menace from midfield for Galatasaray. His bursting runs went unchecked and he went close again when he sent a 20 yard shot just wide of David De Gea's right-hand post on 49 minutes.

So much for United being different this season. A rash challenge by Burak Yilmaz on Rafael on 52 minutes gifted United a penalty, however, and the opportunity to put the game beyond the Turkish team's reach. Having seen Van Persie and Javier Hernandez fail to score from the penalty spot in United's last two games, though, Nani stepped up to take the ball, yet he completed a miserable hat-trick by allowing Muslera to save his woeful spot-kick.

Nani has only just returned to favour after being dropped for an insipid display at Everton last month. Heaven knows how much paint Ferguson stripped off the wall in admonishing the winger on this occasion.

Every subsequent Galatasaray near miss would have sent a chill down Nani's spine and Selcuk Inan's 56th-minute header, which curled wide of the far post at the final second, deserved to beat De Gea.

Nani was also involved in Galatasaray's next chance on 72 minutes when, having been tripped by Johan Elmander, his appeals for a penalty were rejected, leaving the visitors to counter. But for De Gea's heroics, with two crucial saves from Yilmaz and Emre, Galatasaray would have scored the equaliser they deserved. They were also denied a 90th-minute penalty when Jonny Evans fouled Aydin Yilmaz. United rode their luck and that, at least, is a change from last year.

 


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