Manchester United were shocked by Istanbul Basaksehir in their Champions League group stage game on Wednesday night. The Turkish side beat United in a shoddy display by the Red Devils in Istanbul. After defeating PSG and RB Leipzig in their first two games, United were expected to steamroll Istanbul in their doubleheader. Unfortunately, the Red Devils failed to show up. Goals from Demba Ba and Edin Visca put Istanbul ahead before Anthony Martial headed in a goal before half time.
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer made some changes to the squad in order to rest some players, and give others playing time. Dean Henderson came in for David de Gea, and AWB, Axel, Maguire, and Shaw were the back 4. Matic, Van de Beek, Mata, and Bruno were in the middle of the park with Rashford and Martial up ahead. United had enough quality on the pitch to win this game and all but guarantee qualification to the next round.
Manchester United started off the game very slowly. The passing was careless, and the team looked low on energy. Istanbul, on the other hand, came to play and began knocking the ball around very well. United had to attack against a side that was defending in numbers and then breaking fast. United had a few openings in the first 20 minutes with Bruno and Luke Shaw but failed to trouble the Istanbul goalkeeper too much. As United’s confidence grew, they began to push ahead for a goal and pushed too far. After a corner in the 13th minute, a long clearance to Demba Ba allowed him to jog into the United half and score past Henderson. In a calamitous display of defending, United committed all ten players ahead and left the back completely exposed.
United began to push up for the equalizer after falling behind in such a disappointing manner. Istanbul’s strategy was to defend in numbers and break quickly- and they looked dangerous whenever they counter-attacked. United’s front two, as well as the midfield, had a very poor game as they failed to breach the Istanbul box. Martial had a very shocking first 40 minutes, and Marcus Rashford could not muster up any good chances. Istanbul’s defense contained United’s forwards very easily and did not see any significant attacking runs or long passes. The passing was poor, the touches were poor, and the speed was nonexistent.
Unfortunately, things went from bad to worse for United as a poor giveaway from Juan Mata gave Istanbul an easy chance to double the lead which they did. Visca fired a shot past Henderson to put United 2 goals behind. In an instant response, United strung together a few good passes and Luke Shaw’s solitary good cross gave Martial an open header. The Frenchman nodded the ball home and gave United some hope. Suddenly, United looked very sharp and seemed committed to level the game before half time. However, the Turkish side did not lose focus and kept the Red Devils at bay very easily.
Ole substituted Axel Tuanzebe with Scott McTominay at half time. United had their work cut out for them and started the second half extremely well- knocking the ball around and trying to find the equalizer. However, as chances came and went, United’s energy level dropped and they began to lethargically pass the ball around with no real desire and vision. United’s forwards did not run into space and instead just tried to drop back and receive the ball. United’s predictable playing pattern gave Istanbul no headaches as former Red Devil Rafael negated every attack down the left. Somehow, the gameplan just did not make any sense as United kept playing sideways and backward passes even when they had space to break ahead and attack.
Ole then replaced Juan Mata and Donny Van de Beek with Edinson Cavani and Paul Pogba. This substitution was a strong statement of intent from Ole and was meant to help United push for the equalizer. Despite this, the game did not change much as United’s lethargic and slow display was handled very easily by Istanbul’s defense. The off the ball movement was extremely disheartening as Bruno and Pogba were unable to find Cavani, Rashford, and Martial with their passes.
In the 76th minute, Ole made one final roll of the dice by bringing on Greenwood and Fosu-Mensah to replace Rashford and AWB. United were inches away from an equalizer as Istanbul almost looped the ball into their own net, only to be rescued by a goal-line clearance. At full time, Istanbul rejoiced as United were left to lament their missed chances and to reflect upon their shoddy display. United lost their first away fixture since that loss to Liverpool in January.
- United kept possession of the ball and were able to control the flow of the game during some moments.
Things to Improve
- Harry Maguire marshaled the defense and committed them too far forward and the team paid for that when Ba scored.
- The midfield failed to connect with our forwards and created very few chances.
- The off-the-ball movement was an absolute joke and really forced the midfield and defense to pass the ball amongst themselves rather than threaten Istanbul.
- The forwards were mediocre at best as they failed to run into space and get open. Yes, the Turkish side had an offside trap built, but any attacker worth their salt can beat that.
- Luke Shaw and AWB had a tough outing. When Alex Telles returns, Luke Shaw may need to fight for his spot in this squad more.