On a boisterously loud night in Istanbul a notably youthful Manchester United were beaten by Galatasaray, a hard-fought victory that leaves the Turkish champions favourites to progress behind United, who have already won Group H. If this was not quite the promised induction to the inner circle of footballing hell, it is an unwelcome glitch: a second successive 1-0 away defeat, combined with a muted attacking performance in which United created their first chance from open play in the 89th minute and failed to score for the first time in 21 European matches.
But Sir Alex Ferguson will take heart from the performance of a team with an average age of 23 in the kind of atmosphere that provides a test of concentration as much as heart. Phil Jones, returning in central defence, played the whole game and there were encouraging contributions from several younger players, including Nick Powell on his European debut at the forward tip of a midfield diamond.
"They handled the atmosphere OK, the temperament was good," Ferguson said. "We could have won it, at times we had some good attacking play. The only problem our opponents gave us was from outside the box and Anders [Lindegaard] handled that well. It was a good, competitive game."
If this was a half-dead rubber, it was also an occasion of huge significance for the hosts, who before Tuesday night had yet to win a Champions League match at their new stadium. Fatih Terim, the manager, had predicted "one of the most important games in Galatasaray's history", urging the home fans to recreate the hostile atmosphere once associated with the old ground not so far from here that is being bulldozed into a more subdued form of modern hell, a multi-storey shopping centre.
United's emergence into this steeply-banked concrete bowl was greeted with massed, fist-shaking denouncements from the self-styled "Boys of Hell". Nordin Amrabat suggested before kick-off Galatasaray had been inspired by Norwich City's victory at Carrow Road on Saturday and no doubt Terim will have noted Chris Hughton's stifling of United's thrust down the flanks.
Not that this will have helped: United started with no wingers at all, Anderson and Tom Cleverley tucked into the lateral diamond positions. It was an open start, Burak Yilmaz testing Lindegaard with a swerving shot that he could only parry and Danny Welbeck almost playing in Cleverley after finding space behind Emanuel Eboué. Moments later Semih Kaya was booked when he might have been sent off for a lunge into Cleverley's left shin. "They were lucky to remain with 11 men on the pitch," Ferguson said.
Steadily the home team began to assert themselves, with Felipe Melo, known here as The Pitbull, making concussive contact with United's central midfield at every opportunity. Comfortable in possession throughout, United's first chance came three minutes before half-time, Powell heading Cleverley's free-kick firmly against the bar from eight yards out. And at the break they looked the happier, the sting having been drawn, for now, from Hell 2.0.
Galatasaray emerged with renewed purpose, albeit when the goal came on 54 minutes it was from a rare moment of incision. First Melo's header from Eboué's deep cross was palmed over by Lindegaard. Before the corner could be taken the Brazilian turned to the fans behind the goal and gestured furiously for more noise: he got it as Altintop's corner was headed in powerfully by Yilmaz.
"The area we were worried about was where we suffered, set pieces, it was always going to be a problem for us," Ferguson said and there were signs here of a lack of presence in United's rejigged defence: Yilmaz shrugged Darren Fletcher aside rather too easily. Rafael da Silva, the smallest man in the back four, was unable to leap high enough to block on the post.
By now the air was thick with flares as the home team surged towards United's goal with previously unseen vim. With 13 minutes remaining they came close again, Altintop hitting the underside of the bar with a fine dipping drive.
At the other end United, driven on by Anderson and Cleverley, probed without displaying much cutting edge: Javier Hernández's deflected shot on 89 minutes was the first time Fernando Muslera had to make save.
There is at least some robustness now in the mini-saga of United being able to field a depleted team in their last two matches. Galatasaray must achieve a better result than Cluj in Group H's final round to progress. The Romanians will play at Old Trafford against what Ferguson, with a slightly sadistic sense of even-handedness, confirmed would be "a similar team."