I don't believe I've ever watched a Galatasaray match -- not one of their famed Istanbul derbies with Fenerbahce nor any of the four Champions League ties with Manchester United in the early part of the 1990s. Having admitted that, I'm going to try and provide you a Galatasaray scouting report anyway ahead of Wednesday night's Champions League group-stage clash with them. How am I qualified to do so? I'm not. So, how do I hope accomplish getting you more familiar with Galatasaray? Here's how...
Read this tactical analysis of last March's Fenerbahce vs. Galatasaray derby by the always excellent Michael Cox (aka Zonal Marking) and also check out this excellent Group H preview by ESPN FC's Kevin Palmer. For me, both are informed and reliable sources. In addition, I corresponded with someone that has seen Galatasaray play a few times in the past year and he's been kind enough to offer some tidbits as well. Furthermore, I'm familiar with Galatasaray manager Fatih Terim (somewhat) and also with players such as Felipe Melo, Emmanuel Eboue, Hamit Altintop, and Johan Elmander. From all of this, I'm going to attempt to amalgamate this information and then after that, I seek to offer up a rather general scouting report on our Turkish opponents. This won't be as detailed as some of the other scouting reports I've written, but I do hope it's somewhat informative and better than nothing.
Manager and System
Terim, a highly accomplished football manager, generally prefers a proactive and fluid 4-4-2 system. He is willing to adjust though at times if he needs to pack his midfield. Don't be surprised to see a 4-1-4-1 shape at Old Trafford on Wednesday. In either system, it appears that getting his full-backs to bomb forward is a staple to his tactics. If Terim is brave though and has a go on Wednesday, he perhaps might stick to his preferred 4-4-2 and this would likely result in an open game. No matter what Galatasaray's shape is, look for them to build-up through the middle and then look for passes to the touchline when the full-backs get forward.
Goalkeeper and Back-Four
I know nothing of their goalkeeper (thanks for coming by and reading!). Tomas Ujfalusi is an accomplished central-defender and he's also their skipper. It sounds as if he's a reliable player but he is 34-years-old -- perhaps balls played in behind him might be worth a test (looking at you Shinji Kagawa for tasty through-balls). As previously mentioned, their full-backs will look to get forward so it will be important for Antonio Valencia and either Danny Welbeck or Nani to push back their counterparts or look to dart into that open space when possession is won.
Melo, who is a not so lovable destroyer, will shield the back four. However, it sounds as if he struggled versus Fenerbahce in tracking the lateral movements of their No.10. Kagawa likes drifting laterally too in search of open space so if he does this, he likely can slip Melo. The Brazilian has the daunting task of covering acres of lateral space with Selcuk Inan's ambitious runs forward. Inan sounds as if he's strong technically and his 13 goals and 16 assists last season are hugely impressive totals. In addition, he's apparently a threat as a set-piece taker -- something which is not fun to hear as a United fan at the moment.
Emre Colak likes to come inside from the left so tracking his movement will be key as will preventing overloads in the space between the lines when he does this. On the flip side, Rafael -- or potentially Valencia at right-back -- will have space to exploit and 2 v 1 overloads can be created in attack. United just need to find the right balance and organization in this regard. Many of you might be familiar with Altintop -- he's industrious, he'll generally stay wide but he's comfortable coming inside, and he's not shy from letting a shot fly from distance. He won't be an easy match-up for Patrice Evra or Alexander Buttner.
Elmander and Umut Bulut have started nearly every match for Galatasaray thus far this season, despite their acquisition of Burak Yilmaz -- a forward that scored 33 goals last season for Trabzonspor. Any two of these three could be the duo at Old Trafford and none are players you can allow opportunities for. It was expected that Yilmaz would be first-choice alongside Elmander but Bulut has bagged five goals in his side's first four league games thus far.
We have a fortunate draw but this is the European Cup -- there are unknowns. We should top this group but that was the belief last season as well when we were humbled. Galatasaray seem dangerous and brave enough and if we don't play genuine Manchester United football, we'll have our hands full. If the Turkish side come out in a brave 4-4-2, expect an open game. They should be excited though about the prospect of finishing second in Group H so don't be surprised either if they come out in a congested 4-1-4-1 and look for a mere point.