The night all hell broke loose on United's European adventure

In 1993 their first Champions League campaign saw a notorious trip to Galatasaray. Tonight, writes Tim Rich, the club return...

There were many banners greeting Manchester United as they arrived in Istanbul. Some said it would be their last 48 hours alive. Others said: "RIP Manchester". The most famous proclaimed: "Welcome to Hell".

Nearly two decades on, Manchester United's goalless draw against Galatasaray still resonates. It is not just because they are back in Istanbul today, preparing to face the same opponents, albeit in a different stadium to the Ali Sami Yen, which in November 1993 created the single most intimidating atmosphere Sir Alex Ferguson says he has ever endured.

It also matters because, eight years after the shame and horror of the Heysel disaster, it demonstrated that English fans could be victims. For more than a decade before, it had been assumed any violence abroad must have been instigated by Englishmen. It was not just the police truncheon aimed against the back of Eric Cantona's head or the riot shield that gashed Bryan Robson's hand. It was the fact that 164 Manchester United supporters were arrested and flung into a variety of Turkish cells. Many were detained on the flimsiest of pretexts, some were beaten, some had their possessions stolen. Very few actually saw the game.

Gary Pallister is back where it all began. Not in Istanbul but at Old Trafford. It was the first leg, a compelling, endlessly dramatic 3-3 draw that sowed the bitter seeds for what was to follow in Turkey.

Galatasaray had played brilliantly to overturn a two-goal lead. "And towards the end of the game, they had two fans run on to the pitch with a flag," Pallister recalled. "Peter Schmeichel got hold of one of them and ushered him off the pitch, if you like. Over the next few minutes there were threats made to Peter from the stands. The second leg was very intimidating and I have never experienced anything like it in my life. We were not then an experienced European team. This was almost our first Champions League experience away from home.

"They let the supporters in at the airport with all the 'Welcome to Hell' banners. They could only have come in with the police's say-so. It was all about taking a team out of its comfort zone and, if you have done that, then you have won half the battle.

"I remember we were staying in this beautiful place on the Bosphorus. One of the bellboys was standing by the door and I smiled at him. He ran his finger across his throat and I carried on walking, thinking: 'We are not safe even in this hotel'." They were not safe on the coach that had its windows put through and they were not safe in the dressing rooms. Schmeichel had his sleep disturbed by constant calls put through to his hotel room.

The match was the least memorable part of the story, a goalless draw that in Roy Keane's eyes saw Galatasaray "pull every stroke in the book, diving, time-wasting, badgering the referee," to obtain the result that would eliminate United on away-goals. Then, in Keane's words: "all hell broke loose".

Most of it was directed at Cantona, who had been dismissed in the closing seconds for insulting the Swiss referee, Kurt Röthlisberger. As the players descended into the underground dressing-rooms, Cantona was attacked by a policeman and so, too, was Robson as he tried to intervene. "In the dressing room, Eric went crazy," Keane recalled in his autobiography. "While the rest of us just wanted to get out of there, Eric was determined to sort out the rogue cop who had been wielding his truncheon."

The players were ordered to shower two at a time so Cantona would not be left alone in the dressing room. Then he was led to the bus, which was soon to have bricks put through its windows.

Ten months later, Manchester United found themselves back in Istanbul, playing Galatasaray. Some players had money stolen from their rooms but the sting had been drawn from the fixture by a Uefa announcement that, because of violence in Galatasaray's qualifier in Luxembourg, any further disruptions would lead to their expulsion.