The last time Manchester United FC visited FC Dynamo Kyiv, the Ukrainian side's players bonded by shaving their heads ... and got off the mark in their UEFA Champions League group with a goalless draw. Left-back Andriy Nesmachniy played in that game seven years ago and hopes for a similar showing on Tuesday.
In 2000/01 Dynamo had just lost 2-1 at PSV Eindhoven to open their campaign; this time they are coming off reverses against AS Roma and Sporting Clube de Portugal, and another defeat would severely dent their hopes of escaping Group F. Before United's previous visit, a plan was hatched. Nesmachniy remembers: "Our captain at the time, Olexandr Golovko, took us to a meeting and said we needed to change things dramatically before we faced Manchester United. That is why we decided to shave our heads. Coach Valeriy Lobanovskiy then told us we had to take responsibility to show what we were worth. I think we eventually achieved what was a positive result, although we had wanted more than a draw."
Seven seasons on, the 28-year-old Nesmachniy still has a vivid recollection of the game. "Even my haircut now is close to the one I had then!" he said. "As for the match, I remember the character we showed. Beforehand Valeriy had called us in and asked the players to talk about our situation, because the Champions League campaign had not started the way we had planned."
Nesmachniy is poised for his first group stage appearance of the campaign after injury, and knows another monumental task faces József Szabó's side this time around. "Like then, United have a very good squad, very well-balanced," he said. "Like in 2000, the match against United is key – if we lose, we lose all our chances of qualifying from this group. Everyone has only one thought and that is to beat United. We want to do everything possible for three points. As for United, they have not changed the principles of their game. We need to do what we do best."
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