Carrick strike is just enough to see off adventurous Galatasaray


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The Independent Online

It was a return to the continent's elite which Sir Alex Ferguson had in mind when he spend so prodigiously and ambitiously this summer, though the manner of victory last night provided a reminder that the road to another Wembley final will be a long one, strewn with dangers. This victory will not have rocked the continent to its foundations.

Sir Alex Ferguson had pledged there would be no more of the carelessness which saw United win only one home game in Europe last season, though United's 17th consecutive Champions league campaign was only two minutes old when Nemanja Vidic brought the demons right back. The defender stretched for a ball in his own penalty area, blind to the presence of Umut Bulut, whom he clattered to the ground in the penalty area. Referee Wolfgang Stark's oversight did United a major favour.

Old Trafford's European aura will take some time to be restored, it seems, and the way the Turkish side attacked demonstrated that it has certainly lost a little of its impregnability. Yet something of the new was evident too in United, not least in the enterprising Shinji Kagawa.

The game was seven minutes old when Kagawa's neat return pass to Michael Carrick took Carrick towards goalkeeper Fernando Muslera, and the midfielder maintained his balance after the keeper clipped him, and dragged a leg into the shot which put United ahead.

The Turkish side were capable of exploiting United's profligacy in possession, too, during a first half in which they clipped the top of the Stretford End bar and hit the side of David de Gea's left post.

There would have been some immediate breathing space, had United not conspired to mess up their third successive penalty kick in as many games, after Rafael was brought down by Burak Yilmaz. After the misses by Robin van Persie and Javier Hernandez, this time Nani was the culprit. It was the dummy, not the dink, for him but the outcome was equally miserable – a tame low effort which Muslera could comfortably punch away. When Selcuk Inan found the United woodwork for a third time it felt like the profligacy could cost United.

There was a grandstand welcome for Darren Fletcher, missing from United since 22 November last year, when the bowel condition which he will never entirely be rid of, confined him to a long road to recovery. The game ended as it had started – with an Evans lunge at Vilmaz in the area and justifiable penalty calls. Not a lot has changed, where Europe is concerned.