A school trip to TurkeyBy: Ian | November 21st, 2012
Reviewing this week’s Champions League away trip to Galatasaray is a bit tricky for two reasons. Number one: the result is irrelevant to progression (already done). Number two: Utd kept most of the senior players at home, leaving a very young squad to deal with the affair. But let’s begin anyway with the first point. Utd’s average squad age was just shy of 24, and I did see a stat of that being the third youngest Utd squad in Europe. A bit younger and it could well have been a school trip. So not only were they playing more experienced players, but were also running around in front of one hell of an atmosphere (see what I did there…’93). They were also going to be up against it, and after seeing the whole thing, the resulting defeat is not really the main point to draw from the game: its the learning experience.
The trip began with a diversion to a different airport terminal to avoid the hostile fans and the game began with a similar reception. Actual play, which was invariably due to happen at some point, began with some long-range efforts: Cleverley for Utd and Yilmaz for Galatasaray. Some heavy tackles flew in, with Kaya being given a yellow card and Sir Alex claiming punishment could have been harsher, but this early on the ref chose to keep the cards to the a minimum severity.
The Turkish side understandably started to get on top of proceedings with chances from Yilmaz again and the impressive Altintop (former Munich and Real player – winner of 2010 Puskas award for best goal, what a strike it was!) forcing Lindegaard into action. Claims were then made for a penalty against Buttner with a strike against the arm, but were waved away as Utd sped to the other end and got a chance through the returning Phil Jones from a corner. The closest chance came on 43 minutes when Powell, a very bright prospect from what we’ve seen of him, crashed a header against the bar. No goals at the break, with the youthful Utd holding their own, just about.
More focus on Lindegaard came early in the half with two saves, the first a solid hold from Riera, the second an excellent block from Felipe Melo’s header. A following corner then saw the breakthrough as Burak headed home, with Rafael, on the post, unable to prevent the ball going in. Utd did respond, but Melo’s block prevented Chicharito having a meaningful shot. Galatasaray continued to press, with Altintop powering a shot against the bar towards the end. Macheda, Young and King came on, but with no significant impact. End result: 1-0 to Galatasaray.
But as mentioned, the result was irrelevant, not only to going through, but also with regards to group position. Utd top the group regardless, and I would expect a similar side to conduct the last group game. What better way to get experience without the pressure of facing going out of a competition. Lindegaard has played the last two games, and voiced his disappointment in the two 1-0 results, but he was at fault for neither of the goals and, in my opinion, performed excellently. Powell looked strong, Jones got a good run-out and some fringe players got some good game time. So although the result didn’t go the right way, the intense experience will hopefully serve well as a good teacher for the future. Back, and hopefully back to winning ways, against QPR on Saturday.