The ears of the Manchester United players will be ringing when they take to the field at Galatasaray tonight in front of 52,000. It’s the stadium where the noise level was measured at 131 decibels for a derby match against Fenerbahce: the loudest roar ever recorded at a sports stadium. That’s louder than standing on an aircraft carrier as a military jet with an afterburner takes off 50 feet in front of you. The average human pain threshold is 110 decibels.
“This game is very important for us and for Turkish football,” said Galatasaray’s head coach Okan Buruk, who led Istanbul Basaksehir to a win over United in 2020 – and a famous victory at Old Trafford with his current team two months ago.
Galatasaray’s decade-old home is similar to Arsenal’s Emirates – only with noise. It’s ringed by flags in English with slogans like, “Fight Like A Lion Galatasaray”. Then there’s an optimistic one showing the UEFA Cup and the Super Cup, the two European trophies won by Galatasaray. Next to it is the Champions League trophy with the message: “It’s your turn.” The current Galatasaray team won’t lift it this year. Reaching the knockout stage will be a success and a surprise.
United have won only one of their four group A games. Lose in Istanbul and Erik ten Hag’s team will be out of the Champions League ahead of the final group game against Bayern Munich at Old Trafford. United still have significant injuries, but Rasmus Hojlund is in the squad and the team came through a febrile atmosphere at Everton on Sunday to win 3-0.
“We have prepared for that,” said captain Bruno Fernandes of the likely atmosphere tonight. “When you are a kid you want to play in front of this kind of atmosphere.”
Opponents and opposing fans often raise their game when United visit. Here are some of the most intimidating or best atmospheres United have ever experienced.
Galatasaray 0-0 Manchester United, November 3, 1993
The original 'Welcome to Hell' game. Almost every United player said they’d never played in such a hostile and loud atmosphere. The cramped Ali Sam Yemi stadium – known as “Hell” to visiting foreign teams – was packed to the 25,000 capacity, with all four stands full four hours before kick-off. Each of the stands faced off against the other in song, before all joining together in unison. So few people should not have been able to make so much noise. The experience was made worse by the humiliating exit that ensued. A 0-0 draw followed a 3-3 at Old Trafford and the Turkish side progressed on away goals.
Fenerbahce 0-2 Manchester United, October 16, 1996
A first trip to Fenerbahce, where the hosts turned their floodlights off 20 minutes before kick-off – to improve the spectacle of their fans setting fire to rolled up newspapers so that the stadium looked ablaze. And the referee’s whistle didn’t stop the public address announcer from bellowing out constant support for his players. It took the intervention of Sir Bobby Charlton to a UEFA official 15 minutes into the game to stop it. Goals from David Beckham and Eric Cantona got the job done. Notable mentions for other games in Turkey: Galatasaray away in 1994, Bursaspor in 2010, Besiktas in 2009, and Fenerbahce in 2016.
Saint-Etienne 0-1 Manchester United, February 22, 2017
Once the smoke from flares and the smell of sulphur had dissipated at the start of the game in an atmosphere as hot as Manchester United’s white away kits, Henrikh Mkhitaryan’s 16th minute goal dented the hopes of the massed banks of green.
Stade Geoffroy Guichard is one of France’s finest football grounds. And it is a ground in the truest sense, with four steep and separate stands brought up to the most modern standards after a pre-Euro 2016 development. All 41,000 tickets sold out, including 1,700 travellers from Manchester, but the home fans were no big game glory hunters – they’re one of the best supported teams in France. United won 1-0 on the night, 4-0 on aggregate, on their way to winning the competition in Stockholm. French clubs usually create a din, as anyone who attended the United games in Marseille and Paris will testify.
Vasco de Gama 3-1 Manchester United, January 8, 2000
A game played at the famous Maracana in Rio during the inaugural Club World Cup. The Vasco fans were joyous in the heat of the high Brazilian summer, singing beautiful, melodic tunes as they bounced around on the vast terraces of the iconic venue. The few hundred travelling United fans tried their best to compete, but it was impossible. As it seemed for the team as well as they went down 3-1 to the local side. The legendary Romario scored a brace while Edmundo was also on target with Nicky Butt replying for United.
Dinamo Zagreb 1-2 Manchester United, October 27, 1999
United visited the Balkans just a few months after winning the treble. Tensions were high with the war fresh in the memory of locals and not everybody welcomed the travelling British fans. The atmosphere inside the Stadion Maksimir, a ground built to create noise with its three open stands some way from the pitch, was very, very loud and intimidating, even though the Croatians went 2-0 down inside 32 minutes after goals from Beckham and Roy Keane. Robert Prosinecki later grabbed a consolation. Partizan Belgrade away, in neighbouring Serbia in 2018, was also deafening.
Liverpool 2-0 Manchester United, March 11, 2016
The loudest Anfield has ever been for a Manchester United visit. Before the Europa League first leg game in March 2016, we approached a Liverpool fan standing alone under Anfield’s vast new main stand - Jurgen Klopp’s improving side were about to beat United 2-0 - and politely asked if he’d consider speaking on a United podcast. “I’d rather give you my liver,” came the response without any smile or anger. ‘You’ll Never Walk Alone’ was loud, the United end a wall of white. Not a great memory for United fans.
Estudiantes 1-0 Manchester United, September 25, 1968
When United arrived in Buenos Aires to play the 1968 Intercontinental Cup, a crowd had gathered to greet the team and a loudspeaker announcement was made as each player walked into the airport. ‘Bobby Charlton – El Supremo’, the announcer said. ‘George Best – El Beatle’, and then ‘Nobby Stiles – El Bandito.’ That game was when a big bag of minced meat was thrown from the stand and exploded all over Charlton’s shirt, and when he needed two stitches in his shin after Carlos Bilardo caught him with a horrendous tackle. The atmosphere was ferocious, the play dirty. United did not win.
Celtic 1-1 Manchester United, November 5, 2008
A much-hyped 'Battle of Britain' clash that ended all square.
“When you have played for Red Star (Belgrade), you don't really get intimidated,” said former United defender Nemanja Vidic. “Maybe only at Celtic Park for the first 10 minutes of a game when the fans breathe fire towards the players. I loved playing at Celtic and felt it was like my mentality that I had grown up with.”
Vidic said that of a game at Celtic in 2008. Those players who’d played across Glasgow at Rangers in 2003 were equally enthralled by the noise, which even an early Phil Neville goal didn’t dampen.
Seville 3-0 Manchester United, April 21, 2023
A comprehensive and miserable European exit at the hands of Europa League experts Sevilla.
“The reception when we came out on to the pitch was tremendous,” said new Sevilla boss José Luis Mendilibar, describing the white-hot noise, flags and streamers cascading down from the stands. “Even they, who have played many finals and are former [UEFA] Europa League champions, said that it was the most spectacular reception they have ever experienced.
“The spectacle on the pitch too, and we were lucky enough not to face complications: we scored the first, then scored the second, and then scored the third. So, we weren’t scared of the possibility of conceding a goal after being 2-0 and having to suffer in the final minutes – that didn’t happen, so we all enjoyed the game without suffering.”
United were out of Europe. They could be facing a similar exit in the expected cacophony tonight.2023-11-29T10:02:24Z dg43tfdfdgfd