19/11/2012 11:24, Report by Nick Coppack
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Irwin on Istanbul '93

Galatasaray fan in Turkey had come out for the game. But then we walked inside and the place was already full!

Remember, this was about two hours before kick-off and the place was already rocking. We went for a stroll on the pitch and it was so loud you couldn’t hear the bloke next to you. It was the most atmospheric game, by a distance, that I’d ever been involved in and I still haven’t been to another that comes close.

I’d played at Anfield and Elland Road and I went on to play in places like Greece, but nothing was anything like that night in Istanbul. This was on a whole other level. “Hostile” doesn’t do it justice.

The stands at each end were singing to each other, the crowd were bouncing up and down, there were flares going off... and this was all before the warm-up had even started!

As I mentioned, I don’t recall much about the game. We didn’t take our chances and the referee wasn’t kind to us, but that’s no excuse. The damage had been done in the first leg at Old Trafford.

Not even the final whistle brought respite. We’d drawn 0-0, which meant we’d been knocked out of the competition, but then Eric Cantona was sent off and it all kicked off in the tunnel. We were getting pelted with all sorts of things as we left the pitch and Eric and Bryan Robson got involved in a scuffle with the police. We thought they were there to protect us but that wasn’t the case at all. 

To make matters worse, the coach got bricked as we left the stadium. Steve Bruce was lucky the glass only shattered and didn’t break.

Like I said, “hostile” doesn’t do the atmosphere justice. We felt like it was us against the world – everyone in Istanbul seemed to want us out of there as soon as possible. In the end, as beautiful as the city of Istanbul is, we were glad to catch the flight home to Manchester.

As luck would have it, we were drawn against Galatasaray the following season as well. That game in Istanbul also finished 0-0, so I’m hoping we can break the curse this time

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