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    Spart Moscow


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    CFR Cluj


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    Man Utd




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    Shakhtar D


    FC Nords



Old Trafford, England

Attendance: 74653

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Manchester United

  • Michael Carrick 7'

1 - 0


Manchester United v Galatasaray: Preview

Sir Alex Ferguson acknowledges a settled defence will be crucial for Manchester United in Europe this season.

The memories of last year's embarrassing group stage exit were fresh enough for Ferguson to leave Robin van Persie and Shinji Kagawa out of his starting line-up for the weekend win over Wigan in the Barclays Premier League.

Both should be involved against Galatasaray at Old Trafford tomorrow night, providing the firepower needed to shoot United to an expected victory in the opening game of their latest Champions League quest.

However, it is at the back Ferguson knows his side must improve.

Rarely have United been able to field a regular defence during a three-season period of group stage matches on home soil that has secured a paltry total of three wins.

Already this term, Chris Smalling and Phil Jones have been ruled out for extended periods, forcing Michael Carrick into service as an emergency central defender.

Even allowing for Rio Ferdinand missing the odd game, such measures should not be required again now that Jonny Evans has recovered from an ankle injury.

But Ferguson realises the position is precarious - and of huge significance.

``At the moment with Smalling and Jones long-term, I'm left with three centre-backs, (Nemanja) Vidic, (Rio) Ferdinand and Evans,'' said the United boss.

``If I was guaranteed two of those being fit for the rest of the season I'd take that gladly right now.

``It's not been the case in the last two or three years, when we have had a really rough ride.''

The situation is not helped by a goalkeeping power battle between Anders Lindegaard and David de Gea.

Twelve months ago, Ferguson responded to mistakes from De Gea in his first few weeks as a United player by insisting the Spain youngster was his number one.

But with errors continuing to be made, that situation is no longer certain.

Lindegaard was selected against Wigan and though De Gea may return tomorrow, the odds must be against the former Atletico Madrid man retaining his place for Sunday's crucial trip to Liverpool, where he was blamed for United's FA Cup exit last term.

``The most important thing I'm trying to achieve is experience of the English game,'' said Ferguson.

``They are both young and don't have the experience of an Edwin van der Sar or Peter Schmeichel so alternating is not a problem for me.''

Galatasaray head to Old Trafford hoping to emulate rivals Fenerbahce and Besiktas, both of whom have beaten United away from home in European combat.

``They are our big rivals but I remember Fener and Besiktas both did a fantastic job,'' said coach Fatih Terim.

``We have drawn at Old Trafford in the past, but now we hope to follow them. We want to achieve something exactly as our rivals did.''

Galatasaray will have a few familiar faces helping them too.

Johan Elmander, Emmanuel Eboue, Milan Baros and Albert Riera are all well known to Premier League supporters.

It means a quartet of Terim's squad will be familiar with such a grand stage, unlike so many of Galatasaray's travelling party.

Indeed, Terim wonders whether a team making their return to the competition after a four-year absence would have been better meeting one of the lesser lights.

``It would have been better to play against Cluj or Braga,'' he said.

``Then we could have gained more experience.

``Instead we have to play against one of the best sides in the world immediately.''

For that is how Terim still regards United, even though Sir Alex Ferguson's men were unceremoniously dumped out at the group stage of last season's competition.

``Manchester United have been so successful in the Champions League for many years,'' he said.

``I was there when they beat Bayern Munich in the final and they have won many more important games apart from that.

``What happened last season was a surprise but maybe it will just make them even more motivated.''