Manchester United got a much needed win on matchday 4 of the UEFA Champions League Group Stage. Istanbul Basaksehir, who won 2-1 a few weeks ago, were hit early by a determined Bruno Fernandes performance. Though they made a decent comeback effort, it wasn’t enough to earn any points at Old Trafford.
United came out with a new-look front 3 featuring Marcus Rashford on the right, Martial on the left, and Cavani through the middle in his first ever start for the club. Donny Van De Beek and Fred formed the base of a midfield triangle with Bruno Fernandes in the no. 10 role,
Marcus Rashford made a surging run in the second minute, splitting the entire Istanbul side on his own only to be denied by the goalkeeper. The rebound bounced around the box, but no one could get the final touch it needed.
The opening minutes were hectic for both sides, and despite their apparent underdog status, Basaksehir looked as though they came to play. However, United’s advantage in quality showed, and the early chances went their way for the most part. After another good spell United won a corner. Telles’ delivery went Bruno’s way near the edge of the box, and the Portuguese no. 10 lashed it in to give United a 1-0 lead in the 7th minute.
The lead was nearly doubled by a Marcus Rashford strike a couple minutes later. Scintillating build up play in midfield sent Sir Marcus through on goal, and he slipped it past the keeper only to turn and see the offside flag had been correctly raised.
The link up between Bruno and Van De Beek in midfield was everything United fans had hoped for in the early minutes, and set a high bar for the rest of the match. Bruno was even getting into the goal area more, as he did against Everton, and it paid off when a sloppy collection by the Basaksehir keeper gave him a tap in to make it 2-0 just before the 20 minute mark. United’s new talisman making his mark yet again.
Basaksehir were able to settle down a bit, and got a couple of shots off from winger Edin Visca, but United never really looked threatened in the opening half hour. The space and chaos that allowed the ugly goal concessions in Istanbul was not there for them this time, and the United back four looked to be in good sync with each other and the United midfield.
As United absorbed a bit more pressure, comfortable with their 2-0 advantage and solid defensive screen, the opportunity for counter attacks opened up. Victor Lindelof was able to pick out Marcus Rashford on one such opportunity, and on the break away he was brought down in the box, winning a penalty. Bruno allowed Rashford to take it, and he converted it comfortably to make it 3-0 in the 35th minute. Solskjaer’s men went into the dressing room with a 3-0 lead, on the verge of taking control of the group.
Victor Lindelof, who suffered a knock just before the break, was subbed off for Axel Tuanzebe. He has had a lingering back problem, and Solskjaer determined it was unnecessary to test his fitness for the rest of the match.
United looked comfortable again, but weren’t at the same level of dominance that they were in the first half. Edin Visca got off a powerful shot on target for Basaksehir, but De Gea was up for it. Tuanzebe also picked up a yellow, which will keep him out of the selection for the match next week against PSG. At the hour mark Ole made three more subs, replacing Rashford, Bruno, and Wan-Bissaka with Mason Greenwood, Daniel James, and Brandon Williams.
Greenwood didn’t waste much time, creating two chances in his first few minutes on the pitch, and winning two corners. The second one nearly led to a Maguire goal, but the ball went over the net. It took about ten minutes for the new formation to settle, but United maintained their level of comfort. The absence of Bruno was felt though, and the build up wasn’t nearly as clean as it had been earlier in the match.
Istanbul Basaksehir got one back off of a great free kick strike by Deniz Turuc in the 75th minute. De Gea got to it, but the ball was already past the line before he could push it wide. The minutes immediately following were very nervy for United, as they struggled to maintain pressure on the Basaksehir defense, and the Turkish side continued to press and find chances for themselves. If not for the cross bar, Visca would have made it 3-2 in the 80th minute.
The arrival of Nemanja Matic helped calm things down for United, and despite a couple scary moments United took full control once again. They wrapped things up nicely in stoppage time on a counter attack, with Greenwood laying it across to Daniel James for the Welshman’s first goal of the season. Good work by Cavani and Van De Beek to kick start the move, and good composure by James to slot it past the keeper.
4-1 was the final score, and a deserved scoreline for the group leaders. Solskjaer’s men responded well to a second half push from Basaksehir, and go into the final group games with 9 points and a goal difference advantage of 7 goals over PSG. They look ahead now to Southampton at the weekend.