Five talking points – Galatasaray 1 Manchester United 0
Deafening atmosphere, sub-standard pitch conditions, a physically dominant opponent and all staged on an intimidating stage of a European night – it was always going to be a sneak peek into hell for the youthful side from Manchester. With the side’s average age being just 24, Sir Alex made sure that his bright prospects get their deserved chance to stake their claim for a place in the senior squad.
On the other hand, it was also a night where United’s combative warriors, Jones and Fletcher started for the first time after facing long periods on the sidelines. The away side exhibited consistency all over the pitch for the first half, before the tempo faded a bit after the break that ultimately separated the two sides on the scoreline. It may have disappointing for the young batch that could’ve had more from the game, but they may have still done enough to earn another chance against CFR Cluj in a fortnight to convert all these positives into a resounding result for their side.
With goal-scoring never being an issue for the more established attacking partnerships of the United side this season, it’s the defensive dynamics that has been a worrying sight for the manager. It will probably be the eventual interventions from the likes of Fletcher and Jones, acting as effective foils in the formation that will help United endure the torrid fixture list in the festive season. It was heartening to see Fletcher finding his tackling range in the game as well as an incident-free run from Jones as a centre back – another marker attained for the two players who looked to have endured one the most challenging parts of their return.
Seasoned professionals like Felipe Melo, Hamit Altintop and Albert Riera would have always fancied their prospects to stifle their inexperienced opponents on a night where a victory was crucial for the Turks’ hopes to progress through the group-stage. So it wasn’t surprising to see the midfield duo of Inan and Melo win most of the midfield battles for most of the game, creating enough opportunities for the forwards to find the back of the net. The Turkish midfield always pressed in search of the ball and when they had their share of possession, it took them little time to thread a pass forward, contributing most to their 19 shots in the game.
It’s always pleasing for a player to have been compared to the likes of Paul Scholes, but what makes it sweeter is when you let your footballing genius talk for you on the field. Now, the youngest Englishman to have played the Europe’s elite competition, Nick Powell continues to shine in whatever opportunities he has got in the playmaking role for the Reds.
Powell understands the fact that his opportunities will be limited this season with a host of player ahead of him in the pecking order, one can discount Sir Alex on involving this young talent all over the midfield, testing the versatility of the young lad as he did with the likes of Smalling and Jones at the back. If he has quality football to serve every time he steps on the field with that United shirt on, then do expect a lot more headlines lauding this prodigious talent in the next few months.
The result may not have managed to worry Sir Alex on his side’s performance, but the home side had a lot to celebrate out of the 1-0 victory. It provided Galatasaray a glimmer of hope, with three crucial points that keep them on level terms with CFR Cluj as we head into the last round of fixtures. With Cluj facing a tall challenge at Old Trafford in a fortnight, Galatasaray have a decent chance to qualify with a win at Braga. But it won’t be easy for the Turkish side in Portugal, considering Braga’s 2-0 win in the last fixture between the two sides earlier this season.