Having not met each other for nigh upon two decades, Galatasaray’s return to the Champions League group stage will be a tough one when they make their way to Old Trafford this week. The Turkish giants haven’t visited this stage of the European competition since the 2006-07 season and will be looking to mimic the likes of Benfica and Basel who managed to get results at Manchester United last season.
Sir Alex Ferguson’s side was ejected from this competition by Galatasaray in the 1993-94 campaign and although they exacted their revenge the following year, the Scotsman will be hoping to go one-up in the records this year. Gala have one of the most intimidating home atmospheres in world football, so Ferguson will be striving to take full advantage of this early home leg.
Both sides are in very comfortable positions as far as domestic form goes, and as Manchester Untied have clawed their way back into second place in the Premier League, Galatasaray sit atop the Süper Lig and are unbeaten after four matches.
The visitors have been sure to spend big this summer following their league triumph last season, and would seem to make good on their Champions League return. In particular, the Turkish club brought in Burak Yilmaz from Trabzonspor and the striker is likely to cause defensively-stricken United plenty of problems. The threat doesn’t stop there though, and Umut Bulut has already hit the back of the net on six occasions for club and country this season.
Fatih Terim has led Gala to five league titles during different spells managing the club and appears to be working his magic again this season. However, audiences both foreign and domestic will be all but too aware of his opposite number, who boasts a title or two of his own.
After returning to the fray from injury a fortnight ago, Rio Ferdinand may hold down his starting spot alongside Nemanja Vidic in the centre of defence after the pair kept a clean sheet against Wigan at the weekend. It’s unclear as to whether David de Gea has served sufficient punishment for some mistakes against Fulham yet, and Anders Lindegaard might just retain his spot in between the sticks.
After such an impressive debut, Alexander Büttner could be given the nod at left-back instead of Patrice Evra, who was rested over the weekend. Rafael is likely to be looked to for the duties at right-back and, as always, will be a utilised asset down the right flank.
Returning from injury, Shinji Kagawa could be given the green light in midfield, while Antonio Valencia could also make his way back into the starting line-up. Robin van Persie made a brief 20-minute cameo against the Latics, but could be handed a place in the starting XI after making a full recovery from a knock he suffered on international duty. This means that either Javier Hernandez or Danny Welbeck revert to a place on the bench, while Wayne Rooney remains unavailable with a gashed thigh.
Despite all the research that undoubtedly goes into these opponents, Galatasaray will be a very much untested quantity for Manchester United. That being said, the English giants will have learned a lot from the mistakes of last season’s European campaign, and won’t be taking any of their group foes for granted.