Tonight, Manchester United take on Fenerbahçe at Old Trafford in what will be the fifth meeting of the sides. Here, we take a look back at their previous visits to Old Trafford.
Manchester United 0-1 Fenerbahçe, 30 October 1996
"Hello, Manchester," said Fenerbahçe, looking around the Old Trafford pitch. "Nice unbeaten home European record you have here. Be a shame if something ... happened to it."
In October 1996, Alex Ferguson was approaching his ten-year anniversary in charge of Manchester United. He was the man who had taken English football great underachievers, slapped them into shape, and finally brought the title back to Old Trafford. And then he'd done it again, winning the Double with a crop of youth players (plus Eric Cantona) and making Alan Hansen look silly in the process. Some sort of cake was probably in order.
And yet, as Fenerbahçe arrived at Old Trafford for a Champions League group game, thing were looking just a little bit wobbly. United had lost two of their last three games in farcical fashion: that 5-0 humiliation at the hands of Newcastle United, and that 6-3 drubbing by Southampton. Still, United hadn't lost at home in Europe for over 40 years, a record stretching back to the days of Duncan Edwards. Surely these upstart Turks, handily defeated at their own place by United just two weeks previously, would prove an opportunity to get back on track?
Afterwards, Ferguson asserted that United hadn't deserved to lose but the Independent's Glenn Moore noted that "nor did they deserve to win," claiming that the team looked "disturbed by their recent results ... inhibited, their movements and passing were deliberate rather than instinctive. Paradoxically they also appeared, at times, to be complacent." As for Fenerbahçe, their manager Sebastiao Lazaroni pronounced, happily, "I don't think it was a good game but it was a historic one."
Things didn't improve immediately. United lost their next league game 2-1 away at Chelsea and slipped to sixth in the league table; two days later, Newcastle won to go eight points ahead of the champions. But on 16 November, Arsenal came to Old Trafford, obligingly put the only goal of the game into their own net, and sent United off on a sixteen-game unbeaten run of league games that took them back to the top of the table, ultimately delivering up Ferguson's fourth and United's eleventh title. So that all worked out nicely (except for the loss to Borussia Dortmund in the Champions League semifinals, which still rankles. Damn you, Lars Ricken).
United XI vs Fenerbahçe: Schmeichel, G Neville (P Neville, 82'), Johnsen, May, Irwin, Beckham, Keane, Butt, Poborsky (Solskjaer, 67'), Cantona, Cruyff (Scholes, 67')
Manchester United 6-2 Fenerbahçe, 28 September 2004
You probably remember this one slightly better. After initial interest from Newcastle United was waved away, the reigning PFA Young Player of the Year, one Master W. Rooney, was lured to Old Trafford in exchange for £25.6m, at that time the highest fee ever paid for a teenager.
Since then, while over the years there have been question marks over his best position, his fitness, his temperament, his contract, his loyalty, his hair and now, at the end of his career, his place in the team, nobody's ever doubted his knack for grabbing the headlines. Plenty of players might have been happy to make their debuts in quiet, self-contained fashion, make sure they get the basics right, keep it all nice and simple. Rooney, not so much.
Still, while that was exciting, it wasn't a vintage United side or a vintage United campaign. Roman Abramovich had arrived and, after Claudio Ranieri had taken Chelsea to second in 2003-04 — four points ahead of United in third — had replaced the Italian with Jose Mourinho. United, though, were a team in transition, and were having a peculiar old time rebuilding the squad. Cristiano Ronaldo had arrived the season before, along with Louis Saha and Gabriel Heinze, but so too had David Bellion, Tim Howard, Eric Djemba-Djemba and Kleberson. And the season Rooney came in, the only other additions were also promising youngsters: Gerard Pique and Giuseppe Rossi.
United eventually finished third again, this time a massive 22 points behind Chelsea, and Rooney ended the season as top scorer in both the league, with just 11, and overall with 17. Fenerbahçe had their revenge, too, beating a weakened United team 3-0 in the reverse fixture. A win would have taken United top of the group; as it is, they finished second, were unseeded for the second round draw, and ended up facing AC Milan, who were pretty good at this point. The BBC report for the first leg begins "A costly mistake from Roy Carroll ...". We'll leave the rest to your imagination.
Incidentally, if Rooney gets another hat-trick this evening, he'll break the United goalscoring record. We've never heard of a surer thing.
United XI vs Fenerbahçe: Carroll, G Neville, Ferdinand, Silvestre, Heinze (P Neville 82'), Bellion, Kleberson, Djemba-Djemba, Giggs (Fletcher 62'), Rooney, Van Nistelrooy (Miller 82')