Michael Carrick’s first goal for eight months got Manchester United’s Champions League campaign up and running with an unconvincing 1-0 win over Galatasaray at Old Trafford that also featured a missed penalty by Nani.
Carrick’s strike after seven minutes looked set to be the catalyst for a dominant performance by Sir Alex Ferguson’s men, Nani having failed to give them the lead less than 60 seconds earlier when Fernando Muslera swooped in low to grab the ball off the toe of the Portuguese winger.
The game did not quite pan out the way the home supporters had expected though, for after Carrick had showed determination to score after being tripped in the area by Muslera, their team was taken apart in midfield by a number of well-worked counter-attacks by a Turkish side keen to take their first win on English soil.
Nordin Amrabat and Hamit Altintop both hit the woodwork and Umut Bulut was hugely unlucky not to win a penalty in the opening minute.
The root cause of the visitors’ openings were a number of uncharacteristically misplaced passes by Paul Scholes, and a lack of communication between Nemanja Vidic and Jonny Evans, although both issues vanished within a more assured second-half performance by the three-time Champions League winners.
An excellent display by Shinji Kagawa was unfortunately not matched by those of Nani and Robin van Persie, the latter allowed few touches thanks to an exceptional performance by Galatasaray’s Cameroon defender Dany Nounkeu.
United were given a great opportunity to double their lead when Rafael’s surging run into the box was ended abruptly by Burak Yilmaz, but Nani’s spot-kick was as weak as his run-up had been ugly.
Javier Hernandez wasted three excellent chances after replacing Van Persie for the final eight minutes, while Kagawa, Vidic and Patrice Evra all went close too.
It was Galatasaray who had the best chance of all in the second half though, the recalled David de Gea denying first Yilmaz and then Emre Colak’s rocket follow-up at full-stretch.
Galatasaray were not helped by losing striker Bulut, who netted seven times in the previous five games, within the opening 15 minutes. Replacement Johan Elmander failed to find any joy in front of goal.
The performances of Amrabat and Felipe Melo were far more impressive, while former Arsenal defender Emmanuel Eboue was a constant thorn in the side of Nani.
Galatasaray’s performance will give manager Fatih Terim much cause for optimism ahead of their next European tie against Braga, while United will need to lift their own game for the trip to surprise Group H leaders Cluj.
MAN OF THE MATCH
Dany Nounkeu, Galatasaray - Relegated Van Persie to 'bit-part' status and made up for the mistakes of others. Truly outstanding.
Manchester United: De Gea, Rafael 6, Vidic 6, Evans 6, Evra 6, Carrick 7, Scholes 6, Valencia 6, Nani 6, Kagawa 7, van Persie 5 SUBS: Fletcher 6, Welbeck 7, Hernandez 6.
Galatasaray: Muslera 7, Eboue 8, Kaya 6, Nounkeu, Balta 6, Melo 7, Inan 6, Altintop 6, Amrabat 7, B Yilmaz 6, Bulut 6. SUBS: Elmander 5, A Yilmaz 6, Colak 6.