Man United vs. Galatasaray: 8 Bold Predictions for Champions League Opener
At this point last season, Manchester United was headed into the group stage of their Champions League campaign, set to play matches against Benfica, Basel and Otelul Galati. The Red Devils wouldn't get six victories, but they'd surely advance, right?
Sir Alex Ferguson’s team suffered a disappointing elimination from the group stage last year, winning only one match in group play (against lowly Otelul Galati) and will this year be focused on advancing into the quarterfinals.
This year's opponents look a little easier on paper, with the Red Devils up against the likes of Braga, Galatasaray and CFR Cluj. Again, six victories isn't necessary, but they'll advance, right?
Turkey's Galatasaray is the first opponent standing in Manchester United's way, and there's a lot to look forward to as the Red Devils pursue their fourth piece of Champions League silverware.
So sit back, relax and check out my bold predictions as Manchester United starts its Champions League campaign against Galatasaray.
Alexander Buttner Will Start at Left-Back
He was already slotted to start at left-back for non-league matches, but now newly signed Alexander Buttner may be the odds-on favorite to replace Patrice Evra in the starting lineup.
Evra has—and I think Red Devils' supporters will agree—struggled mightily. Buttner, however, has been nothing but a breath of fresh air along the left flank and his performance against Wigan Athletic last weekend was nothing short of inspired.
His reliance on physical dominance, rather than technical play, will work well against tougher, scrappier European opponents and his confidence couldn't be higher. Put the kid in and see how he does.
It's hardly a bold prediction that Sir Alex Ferguson will play the hot hand, but it is a bold prediction when I say that...
...and He'll Score the Opening Goal
Buttner's strengths lie in his physical play and his acceleration up the left flank to support the attack.
Galatasaray is a club that relies on the attack and is therefore vulnerable to the counter-attack. Letting opponents score one, two or even three on them is all part of their strategy. For Galatasaray, it's not about stopping them from scoring as much as it is getting the last one between the posts.
That bodes well for a player like Buttner whose confidence is soaring, and has shown his ability to follow through as of late.
I predict he'll score and I predict it'll be...
...in the First 20 Minutes!
These are bold predictions, right?
If a youngster like Buttner is going to surprise the Turkish champions, it'll be early in the match. How early? First 20 minutes ought to do it.
Shinji Kagawa Will Score in First Half Injury Time
No player has benefited from Wayne Rooney's absence more than Shinji Kagawa. The Japanese international has started three of Manchester United's first four matches and I wager the only reason he was benched against Wigan Athletic is because Ferguson has plans for him against Galatasaray.
Kagawa will be most likely slotted in at attacking midfield again and I predict he'll be gifted a goal—something like a shot from Javier Hernandez that's deflected and put right in the Japanese international's path.
The Japanese international is an incredibly disciplined player and what he lacks in bulk, he more than makes up for with intelligent play and keen awareness. He's making the most of his time on the pitch, putting himself in the right place at the right time.
Kagawa will get his goal and it'll give the Red Devils a 2-0 lead going into halftime.
Robin Van Persie Will Clinch the Match
There's no way Ferguson doesn't start Robin van Persie in Manchester United's first Champions League match.
Not at home, and not after resting him for most of last weekend's match against Wigan Athletic.
However, it's not a goal that van Persie will offer the Red Devils in their Champions League opener. Nope, he'll get the fans at Old Trafford roaring...
...with an Assist to Welbeck
He was up and down against Wigan Athletic, but even in his inconsistency Danny Welbeck had enough chances that he should have had a goal.
That won't be the case on Wednesday as he'll be paired with van Persie, a player who could pass an egg 30 yards on a dime and it wouldn't even crack.
Welbeck will get his goal and he'll put the match out of reach for Galatasaray with Manchester United's third and final goal of the game.
David De Gea Will Earn the Clean Sheet
Wait, why is David De Gea—arguably one of the best 'keepers in English football—earning a clean sheet a bold prediction? Isn't Manchester United, well, Manchester United?
There's two methods to my madness.
First, De Gea is in a slump. He was pulled after a disastrous match against Fulham in which he conceded two goals. The fact that it was the Red Devils' home opener probably didn't help much with public opinion.
The Spaniard's not doing so well and although he's fighting for the starting jersey and working hard on the training pitch, he's going to be a bit rusty against the Turkish champions.
Which brings me to my next point—I think everyone's forgetting that Galatasaray are the reigning Turkish champions.
After three matches in the Turkish Super Lig, Galatasaray has an astounding 10 goals and has scored no less than three in a match this season. This is a team built around its ability to put points on the board and I'm predicting a slumping David De Gea will blank them.
Manchester United Will Win 3-0
All bold predictions aside, earning three points against any Champions League opponent—especially a club like Galatasaray that have dominated the Turkish Super Lig for several seasons—is an accomplishment.
But it's nowhere near impossible.
Despite a shaky start to the league season, Manchester United is one of the best in Europe. They start out their Champions League campaign at Old Trafford and rarely fail to disappoint at home.
Sir Alex Ferguson is grabbing three points on Wednesday and he's doing it in style. That's my bold prediction.
But this is what I think will happen when Ferguson leads Manchester United against Galatasaray later this week. Comment below and let me know your thoughts!