GALATASARAY 1, MAN UNITED 0
Sir Alex Ferguson clearly had one eye to the future as he fielded his third youngest Manchester United starting line up for a Champions League match.
Already assured of top spot in Group H, the Reds’ manager decided to experiment in Istanbul against Turks Galatasaray.
There was no Rooney, van Persie, Scholes, Giggs, Valencia, de Gea, Ferdinand and Evra who would normally provide the bedrock of the team.
Instead there was a first start for Nick Powell, who this time last year was playing for Crewe in npower League One, and appearances for the likes of Phil Jones, Alex Buttner and Tom Cleverley.
And setting aside Ashley Young, the average age of the substitutes was just 20 years with Macheda and King getting run outs with Johnstone, Wootton and Vermijl and Cole on the bench.
Ferguson wanted to see how the latest fledglings could handle a big night on the European stage. And with Galatasaray still in the mix for a place in the knockout phase, it didn’t come much bigger than with 43,000 fans packed into the Ali Sami Yen Stadium.
“I think the first thing is they handled the atmosphere,” explained Ferguson.
And though United surrendered their 100-per-cent record in the Champions League, it didn’t matter a jot as they were looking to the future and the bigger picture.
United’s youngsters handled the occasion and, though they never seriously tested home keeper Fernando Muslera, they kept possession for lengthy periods and restricted their opponents to long-range shots.
United’s best chance came just before half time when the unmarked Powell headed against the crossbar from a Cleverley corner.
Anders Lindegaard had earlier been twice called into action to deny Burak Yilmaz and Hamit Altintop.
Galatasaray sealed victory in the 53rd minute moments after Lindegaard had pulled off a great save to keep out Felipe Melo’s header.
From the resulting corner, dangerman Yilmaz headed home for his fifth goal in five games with Ferguson admitting set pieces were always going to be a problem given the lack of experience in the side.
Altintop could have made it 2-0 but his drive from 25 yards struck the crossbar as Galatasary and Cluj battle for runners-up spot in the group and a place in the knockout phase.