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.

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
musicOfficial chart could be moved to accommodate Friday international release day
Sport
Wes Brown is sent-off
football
News
i100
Sport
Italy celebrate scoring their second try
six nations
Sport
Glenn Murray celebrates scoring against West Ham
footballWest Ham 1 Crystal Palace 3
Arts and Entertainment
Drake continues to tease ahead of the release of his new album
music
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

The Last Word: For the good of the game: why on earth don’t we leave Fifa?

Michael Calvin's Last Word

For the good of the game: why on earth don’t we leave Fifa?
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