Alex Ferguson tells Manchester United to cut out last season's mistakes at home

 

It is a cliché for a ground to be described as a fortress but in terms of European football, Old Trafford has been a Harlech Castle, a Masada or a Fort Knox.

Manchester United played 40 years of European football before they lost a match beneath its stands and Sir Alex Ferguson's mantra of "win our three home games" was the standard formula for progress through a Champions League group.

Lately, however, United have begun to stumble on their European nights at Old Trafford. In the past three seasons they have managed only three wins in nine group matches and those victories came against Wolfsburg, Bursaspor and Otelul Galati – all of whom were competing in the Champions League for the first time.

Tonight's opponents, Galatasaray, have rather more experience, having knocked United out of the Champions League as long ago as 1993, an occasion famous for the "Welcome to Hell" banners in Istanbul. Given that this match is in Manchester, "Welcome to Hale" might be more appropriate now.

When, in December, Ferguson sat tersely in the press room at Basle and tried to explain why, for the first time in six years, Manchester United had fallen at the Champions League's first hurdle, he did not blame their defeat in Switzerland for it. The campaign, he said, had been squandered at Old Trafford.

"I think we all agree that we were careless in two of our games at home last season," said Ferguson as he prepared for his 22nd tilt at the European Cup. "We were in a winning position against Benfica and we drew 2-2. I thought we played well in that match but the Basle game is one where the criticism quite rightly lies.

"We were 2-0 up, playing very well, and then got really careless in the second half and ended up with a 3-3 draw that really in effect knocked us out.

"We don't want to be as careless as we were last year and the team I choose will reflect that. Over the past few years the group stages have been very straightforward for us so it gave me the opportunity to play a lot of young players but I'll be playing a more experienced team now."

United's record of four finals under Ferguson is good but not the outstanding one he would like. Asked whether he thought his side was good enough to win it this time round, he replied: "I think the key for us is if we can keep the defenders fit.

"I really mean that because we have had some really rough rides with defenders being injured for the last two or three years but, if they remain fit, it definitely gives us a better opportunity.

"I think without doubt that has to be the driving force this year. If you think back to our game against Everton, being 4-2 up and then drawing 4-4 – we can't have that happening again."

The loss of Nemanja Vidic, who wrecked his knee in the 2-1 defeat by Basle that finished United in last season's Champions League, was unquestionably a key factor in the late-season collapse that cost Ferguson another Premier League title.

"That's what I am saying about defenders and needing them fit," he said. "Over the last few years we haven't enjoyed that. At the moment with Chris Smalling and Phil Jones out long term, I am left with three centre-backs – Nemanja Vidic, Rio Ferdinand and Jonny Evans. If I were guaranteed two of those would remain fit for the rest of the season, I'd take that gladly right now."

The first European side to win at Old Trafford were Turkish. Fenerbahce's victory as Ferguson marked his 10th anniversary at United with a series of disastrous results led to his wife greeting him on the doorstop with a jokey chant of: "Fergie for the sack!"

Ferguson was, however, concerned by more ill-judged chants against Liverpool fans revelling in being "victims" that had marred Saturday's 4-0 win over Wigan.

"They could hear it in the directors' box and David Gill [the chief executive] was very disappointed," he said. "It was a minority and in our society there is always a minority that wants to be heard."

 

Get Adobe Flash player

 



Kick-off 7.45pm, Old Trafford

TV Sky Sports 4.

Referee W Stark (Ger)

Odds Man United 2-7 Draw 9-2 Galatasaray 10-1

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
SPONSORED FEATURES
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Giants Club: After wholesale butchery of Idi Amin's regime, Uganda’s giants flourish once again

Uganda's giants are flourishing once again

After the wholesale butchery of Idi Amin's regime, elephant populations are finally recovering
The London: After 350 years, the riddle of Britain's exploding fleet is finally solved

After 350 years, the riddle of Britain's exploding fleet is finally solved

Archaeologists will recover a crucial item from the wreck of the London which could help shed more light on what happened in the vessel's final seconds
Airbus has patented a jet that could fly from London to New York in one hour

Airbus has patented a jet that could fly from London to New York in one hour

The invention involves turbojets and ramjets - a type of jet engine - and a rocket motor
Tate Sensorium: New exhibition at Tate Britain invites art lovers to taste, smell and hear art

Tate Sensorium

New exhibition at Tate Britain invites art lovers to taste, smell and hear art
10 best sun creams for kids

10 best sun creams for kids

Protect delicate and sensitive skin with products specially formulated for little ones
Ashes 2015: Nice guy Steven Finn is making up for lost time – and quickly

Nice guy Finn is making up for lost time – and quickly

He was man-of-the-match in the third Test following his recall to the England side
Ashes 2015: Remember Ashton Agar? The No 11 that nearly toppled England

Remember Ashton Agar?

The No 11 that nearly toppled England
Turkey-Kurdish conflict: Obama's deal with Ankara is a betrayal of Syrian Kurds and may not even weaken Isis

US betrayal of old ally brings limited reward

Since the accord, the Turks have only waged war on Kurds while no US bomber has used Incirlik airbase, says Patrick Cockburn
VIPs gather for opening of second Suez Canal - but doubts linger over security

'A gift from Egypt to the rest of the world'

VIPs gather for opening of second Suez Canal - but is it really needed?
Jeremy Corbyn dresses abysmally. That's a great thing because it's genuine

Jeremy Corbyn dresses abysmally. That's a great thing because it's genuine

Fashion editor, Alexander Fury, applauds a man who clearly has more important things on his mind
The male menopause and intimations of mortality

Aches, pains and an inkling of mortality

So the male menopause is real, they say, but what would the Victorians, 'old' at 30, think of that, asks DJ Taylor
Man Booker Prize 2015: Anna Smaill - How can I possibly be on the list with these writers I have idolised?

'How can I possibly be on the list with these writers I have idolised?'

Man Booker Prize nominee Anna Smaill on the rise of Kiwi lit
Bettany Hughes interview: The historian on how Socrates would have solved Greece's problems

Bettany Hughes interview

The historian on how Socrates would have solved Greece's problems
Art of the state: Pyongyang propaganda posters to be exhibited in China

Art of the state

Pyongyang propaganda posters to be exhibited in China
Mildreds and Vanilla Black have given vegetarian food a makeover in new cookbooks

Vegetarian food gets a makeover

Long-time vegetarian Holly Williams tries to recreate some of the inventive recipes in Mildreds and Vanilla Black's new cookbooks