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
Independent Dating

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

HIV pill: Scientists hail discovery of 'game-changer' that cuts the risk of infection among gay men by 86%

Scientists hail daily pill that protects against HIV infection

Breakthrough in battle against global scourge – but will the NHS pay for it?
How we must adjust our lifestyles to nature: Welcome to the 'Anthropocene', the human epoch

Time to play God

Welcome to the 'Anthropocene', the human epoch where we may need to redefine nature itself
MacGyver returns, but with a difference: Handyman hero of classic 1980s TV series to be recast as a woman

MacGyver returns, but with a difference

Handyman hero of classic 1980s TV series to be recast as a woman
Tunnel renaissance: Why cities are hiding roads down in the ground

Tunnel renaissance

Why cities are hiding roads underground
'Backstreet Boys - Show 'Em What You're Made Of': An affectionate look at five middle-aged men

Boys to men

The Backstreet Boys might be middle-aged, married and have dodgy knees, but a heartfelt documentary reveals they’re not going gently into pop’s good night
Crufts 2015: Should foreign dogs be allowed to compete?

Crufts 2015

Should foreign dogs be allowed to compete?
10 best projectors

How to make your home cinema more cinematic: 10 best projectors

Want to recreate the big-screen experience in your sitting room? IndyBest sizes up gadgets to form your film-watching
Manchester City 1 Barcelona 2 player ratings: Luis Suarez? Lionel Messi? Joe Hart? Who was the star man?

Manchester City vs Barcelona player ratings

Luis Suarez? Lionel Messi? Joe Hart? Who was the star man at the Etihad?
Arsenal vs Monaco: Monaco - the making of Gunners' manager Arsene Wenger

Monaco: the making of Wenger

Jack Pitt-Brooke speaks to former players and learns the Frenchman’s man-management has always been one of his best skills
Cricket World Cup 2015: Chris Gayle - the West Indies' enigma lives up to his reputation

Chris Gayle: The West Indies' enigma

Some said the game's eternal rebel was washed up. As ever, he proved he writes the scripts by producing a blistering World Cup innings
In Ukraine a dark world of hybrid warfare and murky loyalties prevails

In Ukraine a dark world of hybrid warfare

This war in the shadows has been going on since the fall of Mr Yanukovych
'Birdman' and 'Bullets Over Broadway': Homage or plagiarism?

Homage or plagiarism?

'Birdman' shares much DNA with Woody Allen's 'Bullets Over Broadway'
Broadchurch ends as damp squib not even David Tennant can revive

A damp squib not even David Tennant can revive

Broadchurch, Series 2 finale, review
A Koi carp breeding pond, wall-mounted iPads and a bathroom with a 'wellness' shower: inside the mansion of Germany's 'Bishop of Bling'

Inside the mansion of Germany's 'Bishop of Bling'

A Koi carp breeding pond, wall-mounted iPads and a bathroom with a 'wellness' shower