THE OLD bastions are crumbling. No World Cup for England, and now Manchester United struggling to scramble a draw at the Old Trafford fortress where they have been impregnable in 36 years of European competition.
One week on from Rotterdam, another disconcerting night for English football found the best team in the country second best to the Turkish champions in the first leg of this second-round European Cup tie.
Galatasaray, quick and inventive, were within eight minutes of what would have been a deserved victory when Eric Cantona poached a priceless late equaliser.
United have been so busy reckoning up the millions to be made from the Champions' League that they may also have been guilty of counting too many chickens.
Alex Ferguson had spoken of a
2-0 win. Instead, his team were uncomfortably close to sustaining their first defeat in 52 home ties in the various European tournaments.
At 2-3 they were in terrible trouble against accomplished opponents whose speed and dexterity gave them a marked edge in midfield. Had it stayed that way, United might have won the return 2-1 and still gone out.
As it is, the equaliser with which Cantona atoned for a poor personal performance enables them to travel with the reasonable hope of further progress, given their solid away record in Europe.
Their Cup-Winners' Cup triumph, three seasons ago, provides an encouraging precedent. That year, they had the worst of a draw at home to Montpellier, then won in France en route to the final.
Having had a flying start, they were bewildered to find themselves lunging desperately for the line at the finish. It took them just 12 minutes to achieve Ferguson's two-goal target. Unfortunately, the Turks then hit back with three of their own to throw managerial calculations into frantic disarray.
Less than two minutes had elapsed when Mark Hughes played in Cantona, whose attempt at a return pass broke fortuitously off a defender, enabling Bryan Robson to turn and shoot powerfully past Turkey's goalkeeper, Hayrettin.
Bad became worse for the Turks when Hakan, their international centre-forward, headed a Ryan Giggs corner into his own net.
To their credit, they fought back with great spirit and no little skill with Kubilay living up to his billing as a real live-wire in attack.
Hakan made amends for his own goal by setting up Arif in the old inside-right channel, from where the midfield player beat Peter Schmeichel overhead with a dipping 25-yarder.
Galatasaray's penetration on the flanks pointed up the absence of United's regular full-backs. Paul Parker had gone down with flu, letting in Lee Martin, while Ferguson's decision to omit Dennis Irwin to facilitate the inclusion of Roy Keane was one he was destined to regret.
The Turks' first goal sparked a purple patch with Tugay, their playmaker, orchestrating some delightful flowing football.
What had promised to be a routine task became anything but for United when Galatasaray deservedly drew level, after 31 minutes. Another sweeping move culminated in Arif delivering a testing through pass into United's penalty area. Either Schmeichel or Martin might have cut out the danger. Instead, they got themselves into a fearful muddle and the full-back prodded the ball past his stranded goalkeeper, with Kubilay gleefully helping it over the line.
The upset was on, and it threatened to become reality after 63 minutes, when Arif's shot from distance rebounded from Schmeichel's left- hand upright for Kubilay, following up, to score his second at prodding range. Cantona prised a draw from the jaws of defeat at the death, planting Giggs's lofted pass past Hayrettin but, with three away goals in the bag, the Turks have a pronounced advantage.
Manchester United (4-3-3): Schmeichel; Martin, Bruce, Pallister, Sharpe; Keane, Robson (Phelan, 64), Ince; Hughes, Cantona, Giggs.
Galatasaray (5-3-2): Hayrettin; Ugur, Stumpf, Gotz, Bulent, Hamza; Arif, Tugay, Suat (Yusuf, 89); Kubilay (Erdal, 77), Hakan.
Referee: P Mikkelsen (Denmark).
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