Given an opportunity to take firm control of their own fate in the Champions League, Manchester United wasted it spectacularly. Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s men handed Istanbul Basaksehir their first ever win in the competition, an admittedly deserved 2-1 home victory. Demba Ba and Edin Visca scored a pair of first half goals to give the Turkish side all three points, and Anthony Martial’s header just before half time proved to be nothing more than a consolation goal.
United had their first real chance of the match in the 10th minute when Luke Shaw drilled a fierce low cross from the left of the box that was just a touch out of reach of both Marcus Rashford and Anthony Martial. It should have been a warning sign that United were turning the screw after dominating possession in the early stages, but instead United had their early dominance turned against them just two minutes later.
After Basaksehir cleared a corner following another United attack, from the right wing this time, the clearance found its way to Demba Ba — who was inexplicably all on his own just inside his own half. United had no one back, and even past his Chelsea and Newcastle prime, Ba was never in any danger of being caught by the trailing Nemanja Matić. With only Dean Henderson to beat, Ba finished confidently to give the hosts a shock lead.
After falling behind, United once again had most of the ball, but were following the same patterns. The visitors’ play was tidy, but toothless — passing combinations were happening in areas where Basaksehir were happy to let United have the ball, and there was no penetration in the team. On the other end, Ba continued to be handful — Axel Tuanzebe picked up a yellow for hauling the Basaksehir striker down to prevent a break away — and United continued to look vulnerable to counter attacks.
At the 40th minute mark, all the elements of the opening goal were involved as Basaksehir doubled their lead. Bruno Fernandes lost possession needlessly, and the break was on for Basaksehir. Harry Maguire fell for Demba Ba’s dummy, and the ball found its way to Basaksehir captain Edin Visca, who blasted his finish into the net after arriving unmarked to the top of the box.
Facing a disastrous scenario as half time drew near, United almost immediately pulled a goal back. Shaw shaped a very good cross into the box and the Basaksehir backline, perhaps still unsettled after celebrating their side’s second goal, were slow to react. Martial timed his jumped well and directed a precise header into the far post.
United went into the break with serious questions to ask, but at least they had partly clawed themselves of an unexpected hole.
To start the second half, Solskjaer replaced Tuanzebe with Scott McTominay, moving Matić back to play as a left-sided centerback. The Reds looked a little sharper in the opening exchanges than they did for most of the first half, pouring forward in search of an equalizer. At the hour mark, Solskjaer sent on more attacking reinforcements — Paul Pogba and Edinson Cavani replaced the largely ineffective Donny van de Beek and Juan Mata.
The next 15 minutes were much of the same; lots of activity in Basaksehir’s half, but no cutting edge. In the final quarter of an hour, Solskjaer made his final changes, sending on Timothy Fosu-Mensah and Mason Greenwood in what was either a tactical change or a pre-planned pair of substitutions to get a little rest for Aaron Wan-Bissaka and Marcus Rashford.
In the second minute of injury time, United were almost bailed out by an own goal, but Mehmet Topal’s deflection of Maguire’s header was cleared just off the line. In the end, United could have no complaints. No creativity and shambolic defending is not a recipe for success. Once again, United just weren’t good enough, and they got the result they deserved.