Erik ten Hag has praised his collection of shotstoppers at Old Trafford as a “very good keeper group” in the aftermath of last night’s Champions League debacle, and contended Altay Bayindir would “get his chances” amid uproar about Andre Onana’s performance.
Manchester United’s future in Europe’s premier competition hangs by the thinnest of threads following the calamitous 3-3 draw with Galatasaray in Turkey.
United twice led by two goals – first 2-0 and then 3-1 – only to squander both leads. A two goal advantage is often called the most dangerous lead in football and Ten Hag’s team tried their very best to prove this old adage true yesterday.
Or, rather, Ten Hag’s goalkeeper did.
Andre Onana gifted Galatasaray two goals at points in the game when his team were cruising through an inexplicable combination of errors.
United took an early lead through the irrepressible Alejandro Garnacho, who rifled home a vicious finish with his weaker foot from a tight angle. This was quickly followed by an equally emphatic rocked from Bruno Fernandes’ right boot, putting United in the oh so dangerous position of two-nil up.
A free-kick was then conceded which Hakim Ziyech, formerly of Chelsea, proceeded to hopefully hit through a flagrant gap in United’s wall. Onana took a misstep to his left and the ball went to his right; the Cameroonian stumbling slightly as the ball sailed past him in what should have been a routine save.
The remainder of the first-half became frantic and pressurised as the home team (and fans) were reignited, after United’s excellent performance had largely blunted them.
Ten Hag’s team began the second half in improved fashion with Scott McTominay adroitly finishing off a brilliant team move, largely spearheaded by the right-hand side combination of Antony and Aaron Wan-Bissaka. United, once again, looked in control with a cushion of two goals.
Enter Mr Onana.
Another free-kick was conceded but this time further out. Yet Onana still managed to convert a simple catch from an overhit cross into a goal for the opposition. Arguably, the goalkeeper should have been presented with the Man of the Match award for the home team at full time.
With Galatasaray back in proceedings, against the run of play, for the second time, United began to tire while their opponents found new energy. Shortly after, an equaliser was found through a scorching shot by Muhammed Aktürkoğlu. Even for this one questions were asked of Onana’s positioning, though this pales in comparison as an error to the previous two goals.
United were unable to find a winner as the game reached a frantic denouement, though they had the chances to secure the desperately needed three points. While a draw does not rule out qualification to the knock-out stages, it makes it feel a starkly remote possibility, with United needing both to beat Bayern and for Galatasaray and FC Copenhagen to draw.
An away trip to the hostile RAMS Stadium is difficult at the best of times; it becomes near-impossible when your goalkeeper switches allegiance to make the game a 10 v 12 man match.
After the game, Ten Hag refused to blame Onana directly, instead referring to the collective defensive mistakes involved in each goal. This was nothing more than a manager protecting their player, however, with fans and the media baying for blood in last night’s aftermath.
Nonetheless, the Dutchman did offer fans some potential respite, with the calls for Bayindir to start the next game overwhelming on social media.
Ten Hag said:
“…we are very pleased with Altay, he gets used to the Premier League, he gets used to European football – which is tough when you’re coming from Turkey. But we are very pleased with that process, he’s doing very well.
“He has to be patient, but if he works well, if he keeps his progress, he will get his chances and then he has to take this.”
With Onana looking increasingly likely to depart for the African Cup of Nations in January, Bayindir was always pencilled in to take the starting berth in goal for United at some point.
If Onana’s performances last night continue, Bayindir may get his chance at the number one slot far earlier than January.