Michael Carrick scored his first goal in Europe in three years, but United were made to sweat until the last of five minutes of injury time for their second win in five attempts against the Istanbul side.
It was the night when United confirmed that rustiness on the continental stage wasn’t a seasonal malaise typical of last year, as it still seems to engulf United’s engines.
Sir Alex Ferguson had promised a strong line-up and kept his word by fielding an attacking-minded starting XI, with Van Persie supported by Kagawa, Nani and Valencia. Scholes and Carrick completed the midfield, with Evra,Rafael, Evans and Vidic in defence and David De Gea reinstated in goal.
United were lucky to escape punishment as Vidic brought down Ulut inside the box with the game barely a minute old and went close to open their account four minutes later.
Nani played a one-two with the excellent Shinji Kagawa, but the Portuguese’s shot was stopped by the on rushing Fernando Muslera.
United were ahead five minutes later as Carrick, Van Persie and Kagawa combined to set up the former Spurs man in front of goal.
Carrick rounded Muslera and managed to score his first goal in the competition since 2009 despite being brought down by the Galatasaray goalkeeper.
The Turkish side were close to an equaliser three minutes later as Amrabat’s shot clipped the top of the bar with De Gea all but beaten.
United were sloppy in possession and gave the ball away cheaply on multiple occasions. For all Van Persie’s qualities, even the Dutchman could do nothing to conjure chances, stranded as he was up-front, completely starved of service.
Kagawa had a penalty appeal turned down just after the half hour mark, after he had whizzed his way through the Galatasaray defence but Fatih Terim’s side were close to equalise as Hamit Altintop struck the bottom off the post with a sweet strike from 16 yards following Arda Turan’s free-kick.
United started the second half on the front foot and were awarded a penalty seven minutes after the restart as Rafael was clipped inside the box.
Nani’s run-up had a Ronaldesque aura to it, but the outcome was far from what the Real Madrid man had got the Old Trafford accustomed to, as Muslera easily parried away the Portuguese’s shot.
It was the third miss from the spot for United this season, a fundamental upon which they’ll definitely need to work.
Three minutes later Inan headed just wide as if to remind everybody inside Old Trafford that the home side were in fact very vulnerable.
Vidic saw his header fly narrowly over the bar, but Galatasaray were in the ascendency and David De Gea had to pull off a superb double save to keep Galatasaray at bay after Evra’s shot had gone narrowly wide and Nani had a penalty appeal turned down.
Darren Fletcher received a rousing ovation as he returned to action after 10 months and United could have had a second as substitutes Hernandez and Welbeck combined but the Mexican uncharacteristically spurned three chances.
If they are to consider a trip to Wembley in May, United will have to improve but after last season’s debacle a winning start was of paramount importance this year.
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