Manchester United 1 Galatasaray 0: Carrick goal enough to hand shaky Reds opening win
There was also the pleasing sight of seeing Darren Fletcher back on the football field after a 10-month absence.
On the whole, though, this was another rather peculiar Manchester United performance. Sir Alex Ferguson’s team delivered the victory their manager had demanded but once again this was a night that raised as many questions as answers.
Manchester United: De Gea, Da Silva, Vidic, Evans, Evra, Valencia, Carrick, Scholes (Fletcher 79), Nani, Kagawa (Welbeck 84), van Persie (Hernandez 81).
Subs Not Used: Lindegaard, Ferdinand, Anderson, Cleverley.
Booked: Evra, Vidic, van Persie.
Goals: Carrick 7.
Galatasaray: Muslera, Eboue, Nounkeu, Kaya, Balta, Altintop, Felipe Melo (Aydin Yilmaz 79), Inan, Amrabat (Colak 63), Burak Yilmaz, Bulut (Elmander 15).
Subs Not Used: Ceylan, Cris, Riera, Baytar.
Booked: Felipe Melo.
Referee: Wolfgang Stark (Germany)
Ahead after only seven minutes through a beautifully worked and finished Michael Carrick goal, United were out of the blocks quickly.
This season that has not always been the case. But instead of going on to win the game comfortably, United played cohesively only in sharp bursts, saw Galatasaray strike the frame of the goal on three occasions and even managed to miss another penalty.
This time the culprit was Nani and he adds his name to a list already including Robin van Persie, Javier Hernandez and, if you include pre-season, Wayne Rooney.
Much more of this and the manager will be taking them himself. Ultimately this was a night that brought United three points they will value.
Don’t expect there to be much in the way of self-congratulation between now and Sunday’s date with Liverpool at Anfield, though.
‘It was vital to get off to a winning start,’ said Carrick. ‘We were playing a very good team.’
Just how good the Turks actually are will become apparent over the course of the group. The suspicion, though, is that United perhaps made them look rather better than they are.
Along with the three occasions when Galatasaray struck the post, United goalkeeper David de Gea contributed a fine double save in the second half.
Had United drawn this game they really could not have complained. How odd it was, too.
United had started so well and seemed perfectly set to impose themselves with a performance of authority.
Having survived a decent Galatasaray penalty appeal after only 30 seconds – Nemanja Vidic challenging Umut Bulut in rather clumsy fashion – United got themselves together to score a sumptuous goal in the seventh minute.
Passing the ball with great fluency through the heart of the Turkish midfield, United got the ball to Shinji Kagawa who played in Carrick and he eased past goalkeeper Fernando Muslera to shrug off an ankle tap and score from six yards.
Carrick was actually lying on the floor as he edged the ball over the line and maybe – with hindsight – it would have been better to wait for the inevitable penalty.
The keeper would surely have been sent off. Nevertheless, it was a pleasing start and some of their subsequent play was bright, too, with Antonio Valencia giving left back Hakan Balta a torrid time in particular.
There weren’t, however, any more clear chances for United in the first half, while the i r opponent s struck the frame of the goal twice.
First left winger Nordin Amrabat curled a superb shot on to the crossbar from 20 yards in the 10th minute before Hamit Altintop struck the post after a well worked free-kick shortly before half time.
United had an early opportunity to wrap the game up in the second half. Rafael was tripped in the box and Nani stepped up only to see an unconvincing penalty easily saved.
Could the Turks punish United’s wastefulness? They certainly came close. Altintop crossed from the right to Selcuk Inan and his glancing header brushed the far post.
For the last 20 minutes, the game was remarkably stretched. At one end Patrice Evra shot inches wide before Galatasaray broke.
First De Gea parried from Burak Yilmaz and then dived to his left to touch over Emre Colak’s follow up. Certainly that was a decisive moment and Felipe Melo soon volleyed over.
Twice in the final moments United substitute Javier Hernandez could have scored and, happily, there was time for Fletcher to enjoy ten minutes back in the limelight.
That, at least, was a joyous moment on a night when players wore black armbands in memory of the two murdered Manchester policewomen.