Galatasaray, 1993: The night when all hell broke loose on Manchester United

In 1993, their first Champions League adventure ended with a violent trip to Galatasaray. Tim Rich recalls all the flares, bricks and smashed windows

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. The phone-calls recounting the stories remain the finest hour of Radio Five's 606 football show and its then presenter, David Mellor. 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. There were reports that in one plane carrying 209 fans back to Manchester only eight had been allowed inside the Ali Sami Yen.

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 when Kubilay Turkyilmaz seized on a shot to score the third, the Turkish television commentator seems almost to be hyperventilating. "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."

Nine minutes from time, Cantona equalised but when the cameras pan to Ferguson's face, the Manchester United manager is entirely unmoved, realising perhaps that the damage had been done but not in the way he might have expected.

"The second leg was very intimidating and I have never experienced anything like it in my life," said Pallister. "We were not then an experienced European team. We had won the Cup Winners' Cup in 1991 but this was almost our first Champions League experience away from home.

"Everything seemed as if it was allowed to be attacked. 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. It used to be a palace and had an absolutely massive foyer. I was the last off the bus carrying my kit and was maybe 30 yards behind the rest of the lads as they were checking in.

"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 two-decker coach that had its windows put through and they were not safe in the dressing rooms. Schmeichel had his sleep disturbed by constant calls that were put through to his hotel room.

An hour before kick-off, Ferguson ordered his players on to the pitch to take in the atmosphere. They were not so much intimidated as astonished as the supporters in one stand chanted to those in another. "There were so many flares and so much smoke, it seemed the entire stadium was on fire," Gary Neville recalled.

"I must say inside the stadium it was, a great, incredible atmosphere," said Pallister. "It was just the shenanigans that surrounded the match that made it so unpleasant."

The match itself was the least memorable part of the whole 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 the away-goals rule. 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, whom he was to allege without providing any evidence had been "bought". 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.

"Eric was a big, strong lad. He was serious. He insisted he was going to kill that f***er. It took the combined efforts of the manager, Brian Kidd and a few of the players to restrain him." 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.

There was to be a coda. Ten months later, Manchester United found themselves back in Istanbul, at the same hotel, playing Galatasaray. Some players had money stolen from their rooms; Ferguson discovered his Filofax was missing. However, 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.

Hell had lost some of its fire and when Liverpool faced Galatasaray some years later their fans carried a banner which drew on some of their experiences of the Grafton, described by those in the know as one of Merseyside's "low-budget, grab-a-granny nightclub."

"Welcome to Hell, my arse! If you think this is Hell, try the Graft on a Friday night."

Kick-off Tonight, 7.45pm, Turk Telekom Arena

TV Sky Sports 4

Referee C V Carballo (Spain)

Odds: Gal 11-10 Draw 5-2 Man Utd 12-5

News
i100
News
Netherlands' goalkeeper Tim Krul fails to make a save from Costa Rica's midfielder Celso Borges during a penalty shoot-out in the quarter-final between Netherlands and Costa Rica during the 2014 FIFA World Cup
newsGoalkeepers suffer from 'gambler’s fallacy' during shoot-outs
News
people
Arts and Entertainment
Standing the test of time: Michael J Fox and Christopher Lloyd in 'Back to the Future'
filmReview: A week late, Secret Cinema arrives as interactive screening goes Back to the Future
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Travel
travel
Arts and Entertainment
Sydney and Melbourne are locked in a row over giant milk crates
artCultural relations between Sydney and Melbourne soured by row over milk crate art instillation
Arts and Entertainment
Adèle Exarchopoulos and Léa Seydoux play teeneage lovers in the French erotic drama 'Blue Is The Warmest Colour' - The survey found four times as many women admitting to same-sex experiences than 20 years ago
filmBlue Is The Warmest Colour, Bojack Horseman and Hobbit on the way
Arts and Entertainment
Preparations begin for Edinburgh Festival 2014
Edinburgh festivalAll the best shows to see at Edinburgh this year
News
Two giraffes pictured on Garsfontein Road, Centurion, South Africa.
i100
Environment
View from the Llanberis Track to the mountain lake Llyn
Du’r Arddu
environmentA large chunk of Mount Snowdon, in north Wales, is up for sale
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

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

Day In a Page

Dress the Gaza situation up all you like, but the truth hurts

Robert Fisk on Gaza conflict

Dress the situation up all you like, but the truth hurts
Save the tiger: Tiger, tiger burning less brightly as numbers plummet

Tiger, tiger burning less brightly

When William Blake wrote his famous poem there were probably more than 100,000 tigers in the wild. These days they probably number around 3,200
5 News's Andy Bell retraces his grandfather's steps on the First World War battlefields

In grandfather's footsteps

5 News's political editor Andy Bell only knows his grandfather from the compelling diary he kept during WWI. But when he returned to the killing fields where Edwin Vaughan suffered so much, his ancestor came to life
Lifestyle guru Martha Stewart reveals she has flying robot ... to take photos of her farm

Martha Stewart has flying robot

The lifestyle guru used the drone to get a bird's eye view her 153-acre farm in Bedford, New York
Former Labour minister Meg Hillier has demanded 'pootling lanes' for women cyclists

Do women cyclists need 'pootling lanes'?

Simon Usborne (who's more of a hurtler) explains why winning the space race is key to happy riding
A tale of two presidents: George W Bush downs his paintbrush to pen father’s life story

A tale of two presidents

George W Bush downs his paintbrush to pen father’s life story
Restaurateur Mitch Tonks has given the Great Western Pullman dining car a makeover

The dining car makes a comeback

Restaurateur Mitch Tonks has given the Great Western Pullman dining car a makeover
Gallery rage: How are institutions tackling the discomfort of overcrowding this summer?

Gallery rage

How are institutions tackling the discomfort of overcrowding this summer?
Louis van Gaal has £500,000 video surveillance system installed to monitor Manchester United players

Eye on the prize

Louis van Gaal has £500,000 video surveillance system installed to monitor Manchester United players
Women's rugby: Tamara Taylor adds fuel to the ire in quest to land World Cup

Women's rugby

Tamara Taylor adds fuel to the ire in quest to land World Cup
Save the tiger: The day America’s love of backyard tigers led to a horrific bloodbath

The day America’s love of backyard tigers led to a horrific bloodbath

With only six per cent of the US population of these amazing big cats held in zoos, the Zanesville incident in 2011 was inevitable
Samuel Beckett's biographer reveals secrets of the writer's time as a French Resistance spy

How Samuel Beckett became a French Resistance spy

As this year's Samuel Beckett festival opens in Enniskillen, James Knowlson, recalls how the Irish writer risked his life for liberty and narrowly escaped capture by the Gestapo
We will remember them: relatives still honour those who fought in the Great War

We will remember them

Relatives still honour those who fought in the Great War
Star Wars Episode VII is being shot on film - and now Kodak is launching a last-ditch bid to keep celluloid alive

Kodak's last-ditch bid to keep celluloid alive

Director J J Abrams and a few digital refuseniks shoot movies on film. Simon Usborne wonders what the fuss is about
Once stilted and melodramatic, Hollywood is giving acting in video games a makeover

Acting in video games gets a makeover

David Crookes meets two of the genre's most popular voices