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Man Utd braced for Galatasaray cauldron

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Thirty years after Manchester United left Galatasaray with their Champions League hopes in tatters on one of the most notorious nights in the club’s history, they will return to ‘hell’ for another do-or-die clash with the Turkish team.

United sit bottom of Champions League Group A and will be eliminated if they lose to Galatasaray in their penultimate fixture on Wednesday.

It is a predicament that brings back painful memories for United players and fans who ran the gauntlet of hate in Istanbul back in 1993.

Finally crowned English champions the previous season, United were confident of a long run in their first European Cup campaign since 1969.

A surprise 3-3 draw against Galatasaray in the second round first leg at Old Trafford put that ambition in peril, but even then United were not fully aware of the cauldron that awaited them in Turkey.

United was greeted at the airport by thousands of Galatasaray fans, one waving the infamous banner that said ‘Welcome to Hell,’ while others threw missiles and menacingly drew their fingers across their throats.

Alex Ferguson, United’s manager at the time, described the intimidation as being “exposed to as much hostility and harassment I have ever known”.

The nightmare was only just beginning as United, clearly unsettled by the volcanic atmosphere in the Ali Sami Yen Stadium, failed to get the result they needed.

Galatasaray held on for the draw, knocking out United on away goals and sparking an appropriately chaotic finale.

United’s star striker Eric Cantona was attacked by a Turkish police officer wielding a truncheon after being sent off following the final whistle.

When United midfielder Bryan Robson tried to come to Cantona’s rescue, he was left with six stitches in a cut arm after being thrown down concrete steps that led to the dressing room.

“The hatred was unbelievable. Even the police started to pick fights with us. I remember one of the Old Bill just smashing Eric on the head,” United midfielder Paul Ince said.

Ince’s team-mate Gary Pallister said the atmosphere in United’s matches at Anfield, home of their arch-rivals Liverpool, seemed like “a tea party” in comparison to the vitriol they endured at Galatasaray.

United’s team bus was bombarded with bricks and rocks on the way out of the stadium, prompting the shell-shocked Ferguson to exclaim: “I never want to go back there again”.

But he had to do exactly that a year later for a damaging 0-0 draw that played a role in United’s failure to advance from the Champions League group stage.

Galatasaray has been a house of horrors for United, who have failed to win any of their three visits, losing their most recent encounter there 1-0 in the 2012-13 Champions League group stage.

Although the Ali Sami Yen Stadium closed in 2010, a visit to the banks of the Bosphorus remains one of the toughest assignments in European football.

There is little doubt Galatasaray’s fans will be able to replicate the wall of sound that greeted United three decades ago when they meet at the 52,600-capacity RAMS Park on Wednesday.

Erik ten Hag’s side can take heart from the way they survived a hostile atmosphere at Goodison Park to beat Everton 3-0 in the Premier League on Sunday.

Visits to Merseyside are always volatile occasions for United and Everton’s recent 10-point deduction for financial breaches made their fans even more raucous than usual.

But Alejandro Garnacho’s stunning overhead kick in the opening minutes was the perfect way to take the sting out of the occasion.

United eased to their second successive victory, keeping Ten Hag’s critics at bay after a difficult spell for the under-fire Dutchman.

Emerging unscathed from their latest visit to the Galatasaray inferno would be another significant step in the right direction for Ten Hag and his troubled team.


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