Tonight we find ourselves in an unusual position. Not only have we qualified for the knock-out stages of the Champions League with two games to go, we have definitely qualified top of the group too. When you consider United didn’t even get out of the group last season, it’s quite a remarkable achievement.
We were confronted with the embarrassment of the Europa League last season. Whilst we were able to poke fun at ourselves with the “Thursday night, Channel Five” chant and got a trip to Amsterdam along the way, it was a situation we really didn’t want to find ourselves in. The saving grace of our failure to get out of the group in 2005 was that we finished bottom so were left out of Europe all together for the rest of the season. I would have been happy to win the Europa League, it would have been something new, but a club of our size and ability should never have been in a position to try. As it happened, we didn’t need to get carried away with thoughts of the final, as we got absolutely battered by Athletic Bilbao, home and away. The sooner it was all over, the better.
This season, for our next two games, we get to use the Champions League like we would the League Cup. We can play some of our youngsters, play some of our fringe players who don’t get much of a game and give some minutes to players who are recovering from injury. Nick Powell, Larnell Cole, Davide Petrucci, Joshua King, Marnick Vermijl and Ryan Tunnicliffe are all in the squad. What an experience it will be for any of them who get to face Galatasaray tonight.
You would imagine that Darren Fletcher will captain the team and will play alongside Anderson in the centre of midfield. The Brazilian has looked good this season when he’s been given the chance, particularly impressing against Chelsea in the League Cup, but for whatever reason hasn’t been given much time in the league this season. It was an odd decision to start him on the bench at Norwich at the weekend, particularly as it was Ryan Giggs who got the nod ahead of him, so hopefully he will show the manager just how wrong he got it with a good performance tonight.
The inclusion of Phil Jones is great to hear too, given that he hasn’t played for us since the last game of last season, when he started alongside Rio Ferdinand in the centre of the defence. After his call up to the Euros this summer I’m sure he wouldn’t have been able to wait for the season to start, so it’s a real shame for him that he’s missed three months of it.
Galatasaray are on the same points as Cluj, but after beating them 3-1 in the last game, sit 2nd in the group. They’re currently top of the league in Turkey but four days ago lost 3-1 at home to the team currently 12th. Galatasaray have scored in every game they’ve played at home so far this season and their top scorer is 27-year-old Burak Yılmaz, who’s scored 4 goals in 4 games in the Champions League, and 10 in 13 in all competitions. A fiver on him to see him score first would see a total return of £28.75.
Tonight will be a good opportunity for all our players to show what they can do, in the absence of the likes of Rooney, Van Persie and Scholes. Let’s hope returning to Hell doesn’t get the better of them…
Galatasaray vs United betting – £5 would see a total return of…
Welbeck first scorer – £35. To score any time – £14.50.
Chicharito first scorer – £30. To score any time – £12.
Powell to score any time – £25. Anderson to score any time – £32.50. Buttner to score any time – £52.50. Rafael to score any time – £70.