Ole Gunnar Solskjaer sent his players a rally in his program notes that Manchester United could not afford to repeat the Istanbul mess on Tuesday night at Old Trafford.
His players seem to feel most comfortable in the Champions League. While they struggled in the Premier League at Old Trafford and have only won once this season, they are a different beast at home games in European competition after RB Leipzig was beaten 5-0 by Istanbul with this 4-1 win Basaksehir.
Significantly, Solskjaer only had to make two changes to completely change the dynamics of the team. On Saturday he had defeated West Brom 1-0.
Donny van de Beek and Edinson Cavani, who made his first start for the club, came on for Nemanja Matic and Juan Mata and it was remarkable to see their combined effect on the fluidity of United’s attack.
Where the hosts were arduous and sluggish against West Brom, they were in full swing against Basaksehir when they took three of four wins in Group H.
Clever touches from Cavani brought the class back to the United front, but it was Van de Beek who really stole the show.
Ajax’s summer signing was only his fifth start in all competitions as he has had to settle for a spare roll so far, but he was the glue that holds everything together.
Solskjaer has been repeatedly asked why the Dutchman isn’t getting more playing time and after another impressive performance, Van de Beek will be clamoring to keep his place in midfield when United move to St. Mary’s travels Southampton.
He’s far more progressive than Matic, while his vision and effective line transition can combine attacks in ways his teammate can’t.
While Van van Beek deserves tremendous recognition in midfield, it would not be appropriate not to mention Bruno Fernandes who was again crucial.
It says it all about his performance since joining United that shooting braces is considered normal evening work for the 26-year-old. Even so, despite its high standards, his first goal was superb.
« Football is nothing without fans, » read the front page of the matchday program, and the prelude was greeted by an almighty Old Trafford roar rather than relative silence, with Fernandes hitting the ball home from the edge of the field after only seven minutes of playing time.
It was 20. The Portuguese’s goal for the club since his debut in February and possibly his cutest. It was a hell of a hit for a player who allegedly only scores penalties as he demonstrated the perfect technique to hit the ball on the rebound and leave Mert Gunok in the Basaksehir goal with no chance.
Fernandes didn’t have to be 21 for long either. Waiting for goal in a United shirt. Gunok’s present fiddled with a cross from Alex Telles and offered Fernandes to type from six meters away that he would never miss.
He could have done a hat trick too, but his selfless team ethic was highlighted 17 minutes later when he missed a penalty. Instead, he passed the ball to Marcus Rashford, who converted a penalty he had deserved.
It says all about Fernandes’ importance to this site that they seemed to lose their intensity and focus when he was dropped off just before the hour.
Indeed, it was not surprising that Deniz Turuc in the 74th. Minute after a free kick scored a goal for the guests and Edin Visca fired a warning signal that the Turkish team was not dead and was buried by the clatter of the crossbar.
However, United, taking full advantage of the five substitution rule in the second half, survived a late-night rush of pressure and Daniel James showed up in added time with his first goal since March to ensure they scored a well-deserved three-point goal.
Solskajer’s side are at the top of Group H, three points ahead of Paris Saint-Germain and Leipzig. A home point for the former would be enough to secure a spot in the last 16.
However, the focus is now shifting to the weekend and whether United can see a positive performance in Europe with one in the Premier League.
Your hopes for this may hinge on a given Dutchman being granted a second consecutive start.
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Manchester United F. . C.. . , Istanbul Başakşehir F. . K. . , UEFA Champions League, Manchester, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, Bruno Fernandes, Marcus Rashford every game | goal. com
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