United edge past Gala
Michael Carrick goal seals win
By Graeme Bailey - Tweet me: @skygraemebailey. Last Updated: September 19, 2012 10:53pm
Manchester United opened their Champions League campaign with an unconvincing 1-0 win over Galatasaray at Old Trafford.
Sir Alex Ferguson will be more than happy to take the three points, but he will know his side were fortunate to take the win.
Michael Carrick gave United the lead early on and Nani missed a second-half penalty, but David de Gea pulled off a couple of very good strips whilst the visitors also hit the wood-work twice.
One huge plus point for United was that Darren Fletcher returned from his career-threatening bowel condition he came on for Paul Scholes 11 minutes from time.
Such was the significance of Fletcher's presence on the United bench that it even overshadowed Robin van Persie and Shinji Kagawa both being given their European debuts. Both were involved in Carrick's early opener.
Initially, Van Persie threaded a pass through to the midfielder. It was Kagawa who got the main credit though, slipping a return pass beyond the visitors' defence.
Carrick stepped inside goalkeeper Fernando Musiera and even though the shot-stopper tripped him, the England man was able to steer the ball in.
The incident did beg the question of inconsistencies within the rules. Had Carrick fallen for the penalty, Musiera would have been sent off and Galatasaray's position substantially weakened.
As it was, whilst a goal down, they were also able to mount a comeback bid. Mind you, the Turkish champions already had cause to grumble.
Sold short by Patrice Evra's lay-off, Nemanja Vidic lunged in on Umut Bulut. Referee Wolfgang Stark might not have seen the clear foul. There was no excuse for the goal-line assistant missing it. Yet somehow Vidic, and United, escaped.
Galatasaray's response to falling behind was for Nordin Amrabat to clip the crossbar with a curling shot from the edge of the area that gave returning goalkeeper De Gea no chance.
It was not the last time Galatasaray struck the woodwork - Hamit Altintop was the unlucky man second time around after a free-kick had been rolled into his path. Again De Gea was rooted to the spot, thankful to see the ball flick wide of his left-hand post.
Having called for defensive solidity, Ferguson, who brought in Jonny Evans for Rio Ferdinand, could not have been happy.
His side were not creating that much at the other end either.
Emmanuel Eboue did prevent former Arsenal team-mate Van Persie from turning Antonio Valencia's low cross home at the far post.
Largely, though, United's patient build-up broke down before they got within shooting distance.
In contrast, Altintop was almost Cristiano Ronaldo-esque in his desire to pepper De Gea's goal.
The shot that fizzed wide not long after the restart was his fifth, only two less than United had mustered as an entire team up to that point.
There then followed the third instalment of United's penalty embarrassment.
After failures from Van Persie and Javier Hernandez already this season, Nani exuded confidence. Until it actually came to striking the ball that is. After a little shimmy, the Portugal winger seemed to freeze, and Musiera saved to his right.
Galatasaray took it as the cue to launch another counter and this time Selcuk Inan guided his header marginally wide of the far post.
It was not convincing in the least, yet United's narrow advantage was almost turned into a winning one when Patrice Evra surged forward and saw his shot flick narrowly wide.
From the corner, United quickly lost possession as Nani appealed in vain for another spot-kick.
Galatasaray sped to the other end and De Gea, of whom so much is being asked, came to United's rescue with a superb double save, first to deny Burak Yilmaz, then Emre Colak, who seemed certain to finish off the rebound.
Rather than being eased in as Ferguson doubtless hoped, Fletcher's battling qualities were a necessity for the latter stages as United managed to keep their opponents at bay.
It was never comfortable though, with substitute Hernandez failing to capitalise on a couple of late opportunities before Aydin Yilmaz had another spot-kick claim waved away.
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UEFA Champions League
Wed 19th Sep - Group E
Chelsea2 - 2Juventus
Shak Donetsk2 - 0Nordsjaelland
Wed 19th Sep - Group F
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Lille1 - 3BATE Borisov
Wed 19th Sep - Group G
Celtic0 - 0Benfica
Barcelona3 - 2Spartak Mos
Wed 19th Sep - Group H
Braga0 - 2Cluj
Man Utd1 - 0Galatasaray
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