As Sir Alex Ferguson's men fly to Turkey for Tuesday night’s game against Galatasaray, former Reds defender Denis Irwin recalls an eventful trip to Istanbul in November 1993...
It may have been almost 20 years ago but I can still vividly recall United’s trip to Galatasaray in 1993. Mind you, I don’t remember much about the match. I know it was played on a bumpy surface and it ended 0-0 but it was what happened off the pitch that has stayed with me.
At Old Trafford a fortnight earlier we’d drawn 3-3 in the first leg after leading 2-0. That result gave everybody connected with Galatasaray the belief that they could finish the job in Turkey and I remember their manager, Reiner Hollmann, warned us that their fans would be “waiting for you” at the airport.
He wasn’t wrong! When we landed there were hundreds of fans at the airport, singing and chanting, some of them right in our faces. There was a sign that said “Welcome to Hell”. Others said “This is the end” and “You shall die”. It wasn’t the nicest welcome we’d ever had.
It seemed like the whole of Istanbul knew Manchester United was coming. On the way from the airport to the hotel cars were beeping their horns, fans were leaning out of windows, gesturing to us. There were even supporters hanging off the back of mopeds, waving flags and singing songs.
During the first leg, Peter Schmeichel manhandled one of their supporters who’d run onto the pitch. He picked him up by his collar, marched him to the touchline and threw him to the ground. I don’t suppose that helped relations, so I’m blaming Big Pete for the nasty welcome!
Beautiful as it was, on the banks of the Bosphorus, the hotel wasn’t exactly a sanctuary,