Ferguson’s men delivered a fantastic European performance, despite a long list of absentees.
An ultimately comfortable 3-0 victory over Burzaspor means United need only a point from their remaining two games to guarantee qualification, allowing fans to breathe a little easier going into two tough ties, against Rangers and Valencia, which will decide the outcome of Group C.
A trip to Turkey is never an easy prospect, albeit against a team yet to score a
Champions League goal. The atmosphere generated by the home fans would
surely be intimidating to even the most seasoned pros in United’s ranks, their
own fans encased in what can only be described as a giant mosquito net,
purportedly for their own safety. Indeed, as the Ataturk faithful bayed monstrously
throughout the Champions League anthem, you’d be forgiven for questioning
whether a mere mesh would be sufficient.
In such a cauldron, the game was certainly set for yet another memorable European night.
However, once the mist cleared, the pre-match pressure cooker produced less
of a steamy Turkish bath and more a damp towel fight, with only the occasional
flick interrupting a limp, sodden first-half. United were comfortable, but rarely
threatening, while Burzaspor were only offered chances by the occasional
unfathomable act of generosity by the United back line, which luckily Van der Sar was always equal to.
At half-time, the United faithful must surely have been left pondering once again just why, when faced with mediocre opposition, their players always seem to lose interest and lower the level of their game to that of their opponents. When there’s blood in the water, rivals Arsenal will invariably go into a feeding frenzy and eviscerate the opposition; it seems as though United don’t like the sight of blood!
Luckily, the second-half saw a dramatic change; as if the visitors had become
interested in their struggling opposition after all, they began to circle, and the
result was almost instantaneous. Fletcher, deployed in the unfamiliar “hole”
just behind the lone striker, had threatened previously, his boundless energy
reserves making him well-suited to the role. His goal, well-taken after a spell of
constant pressure, seemed to relax the team; Scholes and Carrick suddenly took
complete charge of the midfield, the old guard holding the fort while the eager
youngsters now had the freedom to sally out in search of further spoils.
First Obertan, impressive throughout, and then substitute Bebe duly obliged, and two
new goal-scorers will be a much-needed boost for Ferguson, having lost Nani to injury in the first-half. With the derby fast approaching, and no Rooney, Giggs, Hargreaves, Valencia, as well as the doubts over Ferdinand and Nani, United will surely need all the help they can get.
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