Faced with a typical Turkish atmosphere at the Bursa Atatürk Stadi, Manchester United turned in a sturdy performance to beat Bursaspor 3-0 in the UEFA Champions League.
Darren Fletcher, Gabriel Obertan and Bébé all scored second-half goals to put United on the cusp of qualifying for the Round of 16 with two matches to play.
The result reassured United’s place at the top of Group C, but the injury to Nani will surely take all the headlines from the match after he went down with a groin injury, which may rule him out for the match at the weekend.
In the other Group C match, Valencia defeated Rangers 3-0 at The Mestalla to move into second place in the standings on seven points – three behind United.
Sir Alex Ferguson was certainly not bluffing when he said that he would be selecting a very strong line-up, and the United boss only named two players who are not his first-choice in his starting XI.
Ferguson chose Gabriel Obertan, who was making his first start of the season, and Chris Smalling, who has started all four of United’s Champions League matches, for the match against the reigning Turkish Süper Lig champions.
Ertuğrul Sağlam made two changes from the team that played in the 1-0 loss at Old Trafford selecting Turgay Bahadir and Ibrahim Öztürk instead of Ozan Ipek and Milan Stepanov.
When ever United was in possession, the crowd inside of the stadium would make loud, high-pitch noises like a field filled with locusts, which made it very intimidating for the Reds.
The first opportunity for United came when Patrice Evra made one of his famous runs down the left flank and clipped the ball into Dimitar Berbatov, but the lone-forward was unable to get any power or direction on his header and it went straight to the Bursaspor goalkeeper, Dimitar Ivankov.
United were almost caught on a counter attack by Bursaspor, but Sercan Yildirim tried to con the referee by going down very easily under a half-challenge by Paul Scholes.
Berbatov was again involved when he hit a first-time strike that forced Ivankov to get down quickly to his right and save his well-struck shot.
A horrible error by Evra played in Yildirim, and instead of having a pop himself at goal, he laid the ball perfectly into the space for Turgay Bahadir, but the Bursaspor winger went for a finesse chip rather than a powerful, and that allowed Edwin van der Sar to block his attempt.
United supporters were then left with their hearts in their mouths as Ferguson was forced to make a change after Nani went down with an apparent groin injury, and the United manager brought on Ji-Sung Park as his replacement.
Following a decent spell of possession Bursaspor earned themselves a corner, and from that set piece Volkan Sen was given a lot of space and time to measure up a shot from 20-yard out, but thankfully it curled directly to van der Sar.
United started to work the ball into some very good positions, but some uncharacteristic and poor finishing from both Scholes and Darren Fletcher prevented the visitors from going in front.
Bursaspor were finding gaps in the United defense, but the Green Crocodiles captain, Ömer Erdogan, was unable to get a boot onto a very good delivery from one of his teammates.
The match started to get a bit of an edge to it as both teams upped the tempo.
It looked as though United got onto the score sheet, but the German referee, Walter Stark, waved it off, because he adjudged Scholes for an allegedly use of his arm to control the ball, but he was in a very poor position to make that call.
Just before the half-time whistle, a very poor clearance by van der Sar fell kindly to Gustav Svensson, but the Swedish midfielder failed to get his shot on target as he blasted the ball well-over the United cross bard from 25-yards out.
Just after the interval, United got their goal after some very good .
Michael Carrick’s uncanny vision, and wonderful pass to match spotted the positive run by Fletcher, and the Scottish midfielder made up for his earlier miss in the first-half by burying the ball into the bottom corner of the Bursaspor net.
Yildirim played a very nice through ball to Ivan Ergic, and the center midfielder cut inside on Vidic and fired a long-range shot, which the United goalkeeper did well to keep out and collect.
Again, United gave the home team loads of space, but like Bursaspor did throughout first-half, Federico Insua’s left-footed shot went straight to van der Sar.
United continued to show their vulnerability on set pieces, but Erdogan’s header from close range lack the accuracy to find the target and punish them.
Sir Alex made his second change of the match by bringing off the United goal scorer, Fletcher, to give Bébé his European debut, which shifted the formation from 4-5-1 to a 4-4-2.
Obertan’s corner from the right-hand side found an unmarked Scholes, but the midfielder fizzed his header just wide of Ivankov’s far post.
Ali Tandogan sent in low, driven cross, which begged either Yildirim or Sen to get on the end of, but neither went for it, and Vidic did well to steer it out for a corner kick.
United went two goals in front, after Park picked out Obertan, and the young Frenchman drilled the ball into the Bursaspor net for his first goal for the club.
To spice things up, Sağlam made a double change bringing on Ozan Ipek and Leonel Núnez
Öztürk got on the end of a corner kick, and acrobatically attempted an audacious overhead kick, but the effort by the central defender had van der Sar scrambling to make sure it was going over the junction of the crossbar and post.
United turned on the class and it was the pass master Scholes who was the architect as he picked out Bébé to slot home from close range.
The third goal allowed both managers to make their final rolls of the dice by Fabio replacing Evra and Ismail Odabasi coming on for Sen.
The goals did not kill off the atmosphere inside of the stadium, and if anything it got better, which encourage Bursaspor to restore some pride.
Berbatov had a chance to seal the victory with some style, but the Bulgarian should have done better as his effort curled around the wrong side of the Bursaspor post.
Manchester United passed a stern test and are within two points of the knockout rounds of the UEFA Champions with their impressive 3-0 against Bursaspor.
Scholes showed the skill and experience that was needed to overcome a hostile atmosphere, and put United on the verge of the very lucrative knockout stages.
E. van der Sar – 6; Rafael – 6, N. Vidic – 7, C. Smalling – 6, P. Evra – 7 (Fabio – 6); G. Obertan – 7, M. Carrick – 7, D. Fletcher – 6 (Bébé – 7), P. Scholes – 7, Nani – 5 (J. S. Park – 6); D. Berbatov – 5
D. Fletcher (48′), G. Obertan (73′), Bébé (77′)
Shots (On Target): 11 (5)
Fouls Conceded (Suffered): 10 (5)