• Galatasaray v Manchester United, Champions League

Return to 'Hell' holds no fear for Ferguson

ESPN staff
November 20, 2012
Sir Alex Ferguson has left his big stars at home © PA Photos

Manchester United dodged a Galatasaray welcoming committee in Istanbul on Monday evening - but Sir Alex Ferguson insists a return to `Hell' poses no problems.

It is 19 years since Ferguson led his newly-crowned English champions into the cauldron of the Ali Sami Yen stadium and ended up crashing out of Europe amid chaotic scenes.

Galatasaray have swapped stadiums since - to the plush Turk Telecom Arena - but their supporters remain some of the most fanatical in Europe. They turned out in vast numbers to await United's arrival, only to discover Ferguson and his players had exited through a separate terminal.

But there will be no escape as the Red Devils look to defend their 100% record in this season's competition. And Ferguson cannot wait.

"We didn't get the greeting by the fans (this time) - we dodged that,'' said the United boss. "In 1993 when we came here it was incredible. It was something new and quite frightening. But we've been here a few times since and we're getting used to the Turkish fanaticism and enthusiasm. It's no issue for us.''

With almost all his most experienced players - including Robin van Persie and Wayne Rooney - remaining behind in Manchester, Darren Fletcher is likely to captain the visitors. He has only heard stories of Galatasaray - Ryan Giggs could have been the single playing survivor but the Welshman also remained at home - but the midfielder has enough experience of Turkish football to know the best way of dealing with what is to come.

"It'll be hostile - the fans are really passionate,'' he said. "I've not played against Galatasaray but I've been to Bursaspor and Besiktas and it's a unique atmosphere.

"It's a challenge and something we have to experience. For me it's a new stadium, a new occasion and you want to enjoy the experience. Hopefully that brings out the best in your performance.''

With Chris Smalling amongst those not to make the trip, presumably to ensure he is fit to face QPR at Old Trafford on Saturday, Michael Carrick is tipped to partner Scott Wootton in central defence. Phil Jones will get his first start of the season though, an important step after a back injury was followed by knee surgery.

Meanwhile, Galatasaray winger Nordin Amrabat wants his team-mates to follow Norwich's example and take a massive step towards claiming a place in the knock-out stage by beating their illustrious visitors.

Whilst United have already secured top spot in Group H with four successive wins, the second qualifying place is up for grabs.

Galatasaray currently hold it, courtesy of the four points they collected in back-to-back meetings with Romanian champions CFR Cluj. But now they need to beat Sir Alex Ferguson's men. And Amrabat feels Norwich showed the way at Carrow Road on Saturday.

"If Norwich can beat them, so can we,'' said the winger. "It won't be easy but everybody needs to give 100 per cent and play from the heart. If we want to qualify, this game is a last chance for us.''

United player to watch:
Phil Jones is set to make his long-awaited comeback against Galatasaray. It is certainly likely to baptism of fire for the young defender, who will be without an experienced defensive partner with long-term injury absentee Nemanja Vidic and Rio Ferdinand both missing the trip.

Galatasaray player to watch:
Burak Yilmaz grabbed a hat-trick as Galatasaray kept their hopes of reaching the knockout stages alive with a 3-1 win at CFR Cluj in their last match. Can he repeat the feat against a weakened United side?

Betting: In the absence of a number of senior players, Darren Fletcher is likely to be handed the captain's armband. What better way to lead by example than by scoring the opening goal at odds of 28/1 with bet365.

Prediction: 3-1

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