Manchester United opened their Champions League campaign with a nervy 1-0 victory over Galatasaray at Old Trafford.
After their dismal effort in exiting at the group stage of last year’s competition, the three points will have been a massive relief to United manager Sir Alex Ferguson. However, it was a far from convincing performance.
Michael Carrick got the only goal of the contest, with Nani missing a chance to add to the advantage from the spot, while Galatasaray hit the woodwork twice and also had two penalty appeals turned down.
It looked like being a comfortable evening for United against the Turkish champions when Carrick capped a fine move by giving them the lead on seven minutes.
Carrick ambled forward through the middle and played a pair of one-twos, first with Robin van Persie and then with Shinji Kagawa that saw him with just Fernando Muslera to beat. The England midfielder was clipped by Muslera as he tried to go round the Galatasaray goalkeeper but elected to try and stay on his feet before scrambling the ball into the net as he fell to the turf.
By that stage United might have already been a goal behind, had Galatasaray been awarded what was a clear cut penalty for Nemanja Vidic’s lunge on Umut Bulunt.
Trying to ensure his side did not make the same mistakes as last season, Ferguson left little to chance with a strong starting lineup. But Galatasaray enjoyed plenty of joy going forward.
First Nordin Amrabat struck the crossbar with a fine effort from the edge of the area before Hamit Altintop struck a post after a short free-kick.
United missed the opportunity for a more relaxed second half as they missed a third consecutive penalty minutes after the break. Rafael danced into the area before being taken down by a challenge from Burak Yilmaz as he clumsily stuck a leg across the Brazilian. Nani was handed the responsibility after recent misses from Van Persie and Javier Hernandez, but after a dramatically stuttered approach, the Portuguese winger produced a tame penalty at a nice height for Muslera who parried the ball away. .
Galatasaray continued to pressurize and United were left to thank De Gea for two fine saves, as well as the referee for denying the visitors another penalty claim late on.
Much more will be needed for United as they move forward in the competition. Perhaps the most encouraging aspect of the evening was the welcome sight of a return from the bench of Darren Fletcher after his long layoff with a serious bowel condition.