United's kids put to the sword in Turkey

Fenerbahce 3 - Manchester United 0
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The Independent Online

Sir Alex Ferguson gambled on his kids here last night and they weren't all right, Manchester United losing in this country for the first time after a Sanli Tuncay hat-trick ended their chances of topping Group D in the Champions' League.

Sir Alex Ferguson gambled on his kids here last night and they weren't all right, Manchester United losing in this country for the first time after a Sanli Tuncay hat-trick ended their chances of topping Group D in the Champions' League.

The upshot is that when the draw for the knock-out stage takes place a week tomorrow, United will be paired with one of three Italian giants in Juventus, Milan or Internazionale, or last year's finalists, Monaco, or Bayer Leverkusen, who eliminated them in 2002.

So much for Ferguson's gamble that second place behind Lyon would not necessarily be a bad thing. He can at least console himself that United will avoid Barcelona, Real Madrid and Bayern Munich.

Despite the absence of so many front-rank players, Ferguson had insisted before the match that he would be aiming to win. That was greeted with scepticism here but Fenerbahce's coach, Christoph Daum, did not see it as a reason to alter his own plans.

Rather than rest his best players, he started with as close to his strongest XI as fitness allowed. He was without the former Celtic and Nottingham Forest striker, Pierre van Hooijdonk, but rushed the return of Marcio Nobre, who had been doubtful with bad flu.

Domestically that has paid dividends, with his side winning 13 of their opening 15 games, a record in the 45-year history of the Turkish league. Last night, there was also a matter of pride at stake, United having thumped Fenerbahce 6-2 at Old Trafford in September when Wayne Rooney hit a debut hat-trick.

The home side began more cohesively, passing through United's defence to create an early chance for Tuncay. Tim Howard held his shot, and, soon after, was only spared from further exposure when Quinton Fortune made a well-timed interception on Alex. The Brazilian striker did soon force Howard into action with a curling long-range free kick that was palmed away.

With Fenerbahce pressing down both flanks, United's early counter-attacks sprang principally from the full-backs, Phil Neville and Fortune, the latter's efforts being the more incisive. One run earned a free kick on the left of the box but it was wasted as Cristiano Ronaldo blasted it at an opponent. Ronaldo had earlier executed a deft spin to latch on to a pass from Darren Fletcher, winning a corner from his blocked attempt. The resulting set play ended in a scuffed shot.

With Liam Miller making sporadic bursts from central midfield - where Eric Djemba-Djemba was not effective and Fletcher ran tirelessly - United hinted they might produce something from nothing. But it was fitful fare in a first half of few clear-cut chances.

United's misery was compounded when Tuncay scored with a fantastic bicycle kick, then a second and went on to wrap things up with a breakaway third in injury time.

Fenerbahce (4-4-2): Rustu; Onder, Luciano, Servet, Ozat; Serkan, Selcuk, Marco Aurelio, Tuncay; Alex, Nobre. Substitutes not used: Volkan (gk), Fabiano, Yozgatli, Hacioglu, Akin, Mahmut Hanefi, Semih.

Manchester United (4-5-1): Howard; P Neville, Brown, O'Shea, Fortune; Ronaldo, Djemba-Djemba, Miller (Eagles, 77), Fletcher, Richardson; Bellion. Substitutes not used: Ricardo (gk), Pique, Spector, Jones, Eagles, McShane, Ebanks-Blake. Referee: A Ibanez (Spain).

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