Old Trafford leaves visitors fearing the worst

Panathinaikos were beaten by Manchester United on Tuesday night. Of course they were, teams that come to Old Trafford for Champions' League group games usually are.

Their coach, Izhtak Shum, who had seen his Maccabi Haifa side similarly treated at the ground a year ago, was not unduly despondent for a man whose players had surrendered abjectly inside the first half-hour.

No team in Group E, he predicted, would manage to win here and a point gained by either Rangers or Stuttgart would be a distinct bonus for either club. Therefore, if defeat is expected, it does not sting quite so much.

History backs up Shum's argument of despair. Since winning the European Cup four years ago, Manchester United have played 25 group games in the Champions' League at Old Trafford, winning 20, scoring 63 goals and conceding 15. Teams that come away from Manchester with anything tend to have a pedigree.

The only club to have won a group game at Old Trafford since 1999 are Deportivo La Coruña, in a match notable for Fabien Barthez's errors which then Sir Alex Ferguson was prepared to forgive.

Of the four sides to have earned a draw, Bayern Munich and Valencia have both reached European Cup finals while earlier this year Basle were facing a United side which had already qualified for the quarter-finals.

In four years, the only underdog that can truly be said to have come to Old Trafford and secured something against the odds is Croatia Zagreb, who chiselled out a goalless draw in September 1999 under the management of Ossie Ardiles, a man not usually noted for his ability to fashion resolute, rearguard actions.

Panathinaikos were never in a position to mount one, especially in the face of Ryan Giggs, who was as inspiring as he had been against rather better opposition in Juventus' Stadio delle Alpi last season.

"He has been in the middle of the battle scene for 10 years," Ferguson remarked. "When you consider what he has achieved and the fact that he still keeps going, it's quite remarkable. It elevates him in everyone's mind." All the more so when it is remembered that nine months ago Giggs appeared entirely surplus to United's requirements.

This kind of form, so devastatingly expressed against a Greek side which never came to terms with its surroundings, is what makes Ferguson's calculations so easy. Each season the Manchester United manager demands 10 points to qualify from the group stages, and with three games beneath the forbidding ramparts of Old Trafford he is pretty sure to make the target.

The away matches are almost incidental. In 2000-01, United could qualify for the now-defunct second-group stage despite losing to Anderlecht and PSV Eindhoven and failing to win in Kiev.

However, the presence of Rangers, whose victory over Stuttgart Ferguson noted with a smile would "add spice" to his return to Ibrox next month, ensures that "incidental" is not a word United will be using overmuch about their away matches this season.

News
peopleFrankie Boyle responds to referendum result in characteristically offensive style
News
news
Arts and Entertainment
musicHunter Davies has collected nearly a hundred original  manuscripts
News
news
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
New Articles
i100
Life and Style
lifeAiming to show breasts in a non-sexual way for cancer awareness
New Articles
i100... while following the referendum
Arts and Entertainment
Nick Frost will star in the Doctor Who 2014 Christmas special
tvNick Frost, Natalie Gumede and Michael Troughton step up
Arts and Entertainment
Matthew Beard, Ben Schnetzer, Douglas Booth and Jack Farthing in ‘The Riot Club’
filmReview: Sheer nastiness of Riot Club takes you aback
Arts and Entertainment
tvBut something’s not quite right
New Articles
i100
News
people
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

Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
How to make a Lego masterpiece

How to make a Lego masterpiece

Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam
'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

Exclusive extract from Janis Winehouse's poignant new memoir
Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

The Imitation Game, film review
England and Roy Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption in Basel

England and Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption

Welbeck double puts England on the road to Euro 2016
Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Pictures removed from public view as courts decide ownership
‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

Donatella Versace at New York Fashion Week