Why Galatasaray brings Beckham good memories
Manchester United's 2023 Champions League rivals Galatasaray are familiar foes for the Reds, having done particularly well against Sir Alex Ferguson's side in the past.
In 1993, entering Europe's premier competition on the back of our first Premier League win, we were 3-2 down at Old Trafford against the visitors from Istanbul and facing a first-ever home reverse in the competition until Eric Cantona's 83rd-minute strike scrambled a draw. Galatasaray completed the job in the second leg, after a fractious 0-0 stalemate clinched an away-goals triumph, with the 'Welcome to Hell' sign for the Ali Sami Yen visit sticking in the mind.
Another goalless draw followed when we next travelled to face Gala in Turkey in the following year but Ferguson's men were facing elimination from the group when the home fixture took place in December, after succumbing in Sweden to IFK Gothenburg.
Left hoping for a miracle and IFK winning in Barcelona, their tie finished 1-1, despite a late Stefan Rehn equaliser causing some nerves for the Nou Camp crowd.
So what could have been a gloomy night for United instead produced a marvellous pointer for the future, showing what the club is all about.
With his hands a little tied due to UEFA's restrictions on foreign players at the time, the manager turned to youth. The way his tyros combined with the magnificent Eric Cantona, who showed an aptitude for conducting the orchestra in a way that would prove instrumental in the following 1995/96 season, when we did the Double, left everybody more than optimistic for the future.
One of the youngsters, Simon Davies, produced a clinical finish to grab an early goal before Becks, wearing no.10, ran onto a loose ball when Bulent Korkmaz tackled Brian McClair. Time must have stood still for a rookie with only League Cup experience with the club but he took aim with his trust right boot and the ball skipped past keeper Gintaras Stauce.
Beckham would often speak about the moment he celebrated the goal with Cantona, and the photograph he kept of it, as the Frenchman was someone he would always look up to.
It felt like his coming of age, even if he had to remain patient for opportunities, appearing in six more games during a season that ended in the dual agony of missing out on the Premier League title on the last day, to Blackburn Rovers, and losing the FA Cup final to Everton.
Yet more glory was to follow in 1995/96, when Ferguson really entrusted the Class of '92 with the responsibility to assist the title charge, after selling Paul Ince, Andrei Kanchelskis and Mark Hughes in the summer.
As for the Galatasary night, further efforts by Roy Keane, expertly taken by the Irishman, and an own goal by Korkmaz after a real show of pace down the left by Cantona, showed what we were capable of.
Beckham would go on to score 84 more goals for the Reds, in all competitions, and work his way into the hearts of the club's support.
One of our favourite sons played 81 times in the Champions League for his boyhood side, scoring 15 times in the competition - including a goal in Turkey in 1996, against Fenerbahce.
No doubt the games with Galatasaray in this season's group stage will bring it all flooding back for the iconic former England captain.
BECKHAM'S CHAMPIONS LEAGUE GOALS FOR UNITED
7/12/94: Galatasay (H)
25/9/96: Rapid Vienna (H)
16/10/96: Fenerbahce (A)
16/9/98: Barcelona (H)
4/11/98: Brondby (H)
27/10/99: Croatia Zagreb (A)
19/4/00: Real Madrid (H)
18/9/01: Lille (H)
10/10/01: Deportivo La Coruna (A)
26/2/02: Nantes (H)
19/3/02: Boavista (A)
2/4/02: Deportivo La Coruna (A)
27/8/02: Zalaegerszeg (H)
23/4/03: Real Madrid (H) x 2