If it wasn’t the “Welcome to Hell” signs at the airport, it was the bell boy at the team hotel performing a throat-slitting gesture as the players arrived.
Or the deliberately timed phone calls during the night to disrupt sleep, and the mud and flags thrown at the bus to the stadium.
Manchester United’s first Champions League match against Galatasaray at the Turkish team’s Ali Sami Yen Stadium has gone down in lore. Thirty years later, United are back in Istanbul and again fighting to stay in the competition — something they failed to do back in 1993.
United’s players probably thought their Premier League match on Sunday against a fired-up Everton seething with resentment at the perceived injustice of a 10-point sanction for financial mismanagement was a tough gauntlet to run.
Wednesday’s match against Galatasaray promises to be as — if not more — fiery.
There’s plenty on the line, too, like there was in 1993 when United could only draw 0-0 and was eliminated on away goals after a 3-3 draw at Old Trafford to miss out on a place in the group stage.
This time, a defeat would end United’s chances of reaching the round of 16, with Erik ten Hag’s team having lost three of their first four Group A matches — including at home to Galatasaray on October 3.
With two games remaining, United are bottom of the group on three points, a point behind second-placed Copenhagen FC and Galatasaray, who are third having pulled off a shock 3-2 win at Old Trafford last month. Bayern Munich are on 12 and have already qualified as group winner.
United have Rasmus Hojlund, the joint top-scorer in the Champions League this season, and Antony fit for their pivotal game in a big boost.
United have won five out of their last six Premier League matches and Ten Hag is optimistic his team can carry that momentum over into their final two Champions
“We have made good progress and we are more stable and are winning games,”he said. “There is a big difference in us from the first moment we played Galatasaray.”
Ten Hag’s side will be without forward Marcus Rashford as he serves a one-game ban for his sending off in the 4-3 defeat at FC Copenhagen last time out.
Ten Hag has encouraged his players to remain calm.
“You can always fight,” he said after Tuesday’s training session at Carrington. “You have to stay calm in your head and don’t get too emotional.”
United midfielder Bruno Fernandes has had his captaincy questioned this season, but the Portuguese player told reporters on Tuesday that the harsh comments do not bother him. “It’s normal to be criticised at United. You just have to deal with that,” he said.
Real Madrid go into their tie against Napoli with plenty of injury problems, but manager Carlo Ancelotti said his side have proved they are strong enough to cope with these challenges.
Real’s injury list includes Aurelien Tchouameni, Vinicius Junior, Eduardo Camavinga, while Luka Modric
is a doubt.
“To talk a lot about the problems we have and the absences, I think it’s disrespectful to the players who are going to play.” Ancelotti told a press conference on Tuesday.
Real Madrid are on 12 points in Group C with Napoli five points behind in second. The Serie A side can join Real in the last 16 with a win in Spain or matching Braga’s result with Union Berlin.