Wednesday 21 March 2018

Obertan and Bebe revive memories of finest Turkish delight

Bursaspor 0
Man United 3

Manchester United players celebrates Darren Fletcher's goal against Bursaspor during the Champions League clash in Turkey last night - United won 3-0. Photo: Reuters
Manchester United players celebrates Darren Fletcher's goal against Bursaspor during the Champions League clash in Turkey last night - United won 3-0. Photo: Reuters

Mark Ogden in Bursa

It was against Turkish opposition in 1994 that one group of Manchester United youngsters served notice of their readiness to dislodge the old guard and claim centre stage.

Expecting Gabriel Obertan and Bebe to emulate the feats of David Beckham and Co, who destroyed Galatasaray in a 4-0 rout at Old Trafford in December 1994, would be a case of optimism in the extreme, but the unheralded wingers certainly responded to their critics by scoring their first Champions League goals as United coasted to this victory against Bursaspor.

Darren Fletcher's 48th-minute opener was followed by a fierce 20-yard strike by Obertan and a neat finish by Bebe. But while Bebe's brief cameo highlighted his pace and adventure, Obertan's all-round performance was the stand-out. Maybe the French winger might have something after all and, with Nani limping out with a groin injury, he might just get the opportunity to prove himself against Wolves on Saturday.

Ferguson had claimed prior to this game that the Champions League was now a better tournament than the World Cup which, according to the United manager, has become as appealing as "going to the dentist".

But Ferguson's team selection belied his bullish talk about the competition.

With Rio Ferdinand excused the four-hour trip to the Asian side of the Bosphorus in order to rest ahead of a busy fixture period, Ferguson also chose to start without the in-form Mexican forward Javier Hernandez, with youngsters Chris Smalling and Obertan selected instead.

Bursaspor's Champions League form justified Ferguson's selection, however.

The Turkish champions went into this fixture still searching for their first goal in the competition, so they clearly lacked the pedigree of Turkey's European regulars -- the Istanbul trio of Galatasaray, Fenerbahce and Besiktas -- who have all proved a thorn in United's side in Europe.

Bursaspor created chances in the first half, though, and it required the class of goalkeeper Edwin van der Sar, and the leniency of German referee Wolfgang Stark, to deny Ertugrul Saglam's team.

Van der Sar, who celebrated his 40th birthday last Friday, saved well from Turgay Bahadir and Volkan Sen, while Stark ignored appeals for a penalty when Paul Scholes appeared to trip Sercan Yildirim.

United carried more threat, though, and they should have edged ahead before the interval. Dimitar Berbatov, whose form has dipped in recent weeks, wasted Patrice Evra's early cross by directed a tame header into the hands of goalkeeper Dimitar Ivankov before seeing a cleanly struck volley from Obertan's lay-off saved by his fellow Bulgarian.

United's momentum was then checked when Nani limped out of the game on 24 minutes, with Ferguson waiting five minutes before replacing the winger with the less adventurous Ji-Sung Park.

Scholes looked to have made the breakthrough on 38 minutes when he burst into the penalty area after playing a quick one-two with Obertan. The 35-year-old found himself clean through on goal and he scored from 12 yards, but Stark had spotted a handball by the United veteran and correctly disallowed the goal.

Having narrowly edged to a 1-0 victory against Besiktas in Istanbul last season, United were much more comfortable in Bursa and the goal they deserved came just three minutes into the second half.

Michael Carrick's first-time pass picked out Fletcher on the edge of six-yard box and the Scotland captain took a touch to control the ball before directing a right-footed shot beyond Ivankov and into the far corner.

The goal was only Fletcher's second in 50 Champions League appearances for United -- his first coming in last season's 4-0 second-round win against AC Milan at Old Trafford -- but it was crucial in its timing.

It left Bursaspor with no option but to pursue an equaliser and leave more gaps at the back, but whenever they had a sight of goal, their efforts were aimed directly into the body of Van der Sar.

A point against Rangers at Ibrox on the 24th of the month will confirm United's qualification for the knock-out stages, but Glasgow will be more intimidating and demanding than this. (© Daily Telegraph, London)

Irish Independent

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