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Galatasaray 3-3 Manchester United: ten Hag’s Reds waste another lead with Europe on the line

Another blown lead in Europe has United on the brink...

Galatasaray A.S. v Manchester United: Group A - UEFA Champions League 2023/24 Photo by Ahmad Mora/Getty Images

“Welcome to hell”

A throwback message from the Galatasary faithful ahead of a crucial Champions League clash with Manchester United on Wednesday. Istanbul has hosted some embarrassing moments in Europe for United, and there was no room for error this time around. Rainy conditions and soaked pitch be damned, United needed three points.

They would come away with just one.

“Manchester United have created their own kind of hell,” Clive Tyldsley said on the broadcast just after kickoff, summarizing the atrocious first four matches leaving United in last place ahead of the match. Blown leads in two matches, goalkeeping catastrophes, defensive lapses, and all-around chaos had Erik ten Hag’s side desperate for a change in fortune.

It was a must-win game for the Reds, but it ended all level after another collapse.

Erik ten Hag was forced to shuffle the pack for the match. Suspension for Marcus Rashford and a squad still recovering from a slew of injuries meant a return to the XI for Antony and Sofyan Amrabat, with Rasmus Hojlund also returning after missing the 3-0 win over Everton at the weekend.

Kobbie Mainoo was left on the bench after a dazzling first start in the Premier League, perhaps with ten Hag thinking about his upcoming workload.

United created an early chance for Hojlund, who tried to steer a low ball towards goal with a defender on his back. There was a deflection from the defender, however, and the ball bounced off Hojlund again before exiting play for a goal kick.

They didn’t have to wait too long after to open the scoring. Alejandro Garnacho, who wowed the world on Sunday, broke through again to finish a nice team move and smash one into the net in the 11th minute. He beat Fernando Muslera at his near post, which was more a credit to the power and accuracy of the strike than a mark against the long-time Uruguay no. 1.

Garnacho was giving it back to the home crowd a bit, something a few United supporters may not have felt great about considering their poor record of conceding immediately after scoring in group play this season. It wasn’t long before the Reds avoided a penalty concession with McTominay’s arms once again being caught in controversy in the penalty area. Thankfully the VAR thought otherwise, and United avoided another nightmare scenario.

And then...

Bruno Fernandes smashed in a beauty. A curler into the postage stamp corner, an absolute beauty, and likely an honorable mention for the goal of the season.

Galatasaray wasn’t going to roll over and a Ziyech free kick in the 29th minute to pull one back. He bent one around the wall, where a teammate was lined up before the play, to beat Onana with a low shot. It could have, and should have been saved, and it gave life to a raucous stadium in a make-or-break match for their team as well.

Icardi thought he’d hit the equalizer in the 43rd minute before it was flagged for offside, and after a look at the replay, Icardi did seem to be onside. After a quick check, however, VAR confirmed the offside ruling. The hosts were denied by just a few inches’ lead behind the last defender.

The second half began with very similar vibes of chaos, and both teams picked up right where they left off. That chaos nearly presented the hosts an equalizer, but in the 55th minute, it granted the Reds a third goal.

Breaking forward down the right, Antony presented Aaron Wan-Bissaka with the ball with acres of space. He hit a first-time low cross right to McTominay, who steered it past Muslera for 3-1. It was some atrocious defending in transition, but a really good job by United to take advantage of the space quickly given the pitch conditions.

Unfortunately, this time United would again follow their trend of conceding a colossal shitshow catastrophe goal, with another Ziyech free kick bouncing off of Onana to find its way into the net. It seemed inevitable that something would bounce Galatasaray’s way, but felt a little extra cruel that Onana would concede twice from a position of advantage.

He would make a dangerous save a few minutes later, beating Icardi to a Ziyech cross in behind Wan-Bissaka. The offside flag went up once again, but the margins were close, and the hosts were getting closer.

Soon after substitute Kerem Aktürkoglu came in to smash a ball past Onana at the near post, a ferocious hit to equalize and put the pressure back on United to make something happen.

The trend of every group game being on drugs was simply not going to let up.

There were chances to equalize soon after. First Garnacho saw a shot just fizz wide of the post, and McTominay saw a shot skip past the other post just moments later. They were both spectacular chances to make a play, but both players opted to shoot instead.

Bruno Fernandes would take a chance from distance as well, this time clipping the post before bouncing out for a goal kick. It was a cruel, cruel bounce off the upright. One to make one think that there is no just end to this madness. That we are bound to a listless ship lost at sea for an eternity, doomed only to gaze at the horizon with no hope of arrival in the promised land again.

And so it is.

A hell of their own making indeed.