Manchester United slumped to a shock defeat to Istanbul Basaksehir yesterday in the Champions League although those that have followed us in the Premier League wouldn’t be entirely shocked. The Turkish team gained their first-ever win in the Champions League by beating us. In terms of the context of this result, it isn’t too bad as qualification is still within our hands and we are still top of the group. However, in terms of form, this is another alarming result.
The defending by us in this match was absolutely shocking. After getting slaughtered by Tottenham Hotspur, we have shown great concentration, focus and determination in our defending. But consistency is our bane. Inexplicably, we had a couple of blackout moments in our defending and Istanbul capitalised gleefully to score twice. I am not sure if there was an inquest in our dressing room at half-time on the goals we conceded but we are left scratching our head wondering how we made such elementary mistakes to gift Istanbul their goals.
Wrong Tactics Again
Once again, Ole Gunnar Solksjaer chose the wrong tactics. He stuck with the same one that worked against RB Leipzig but not against Arsenal and again not today. The play was too congested in the middle as we tried to piece through moves through the eye of a needle and repeatedly failed to do so.
Lack of Intensity & Fire
In the second half, we had most of the possession and pinned Istanbul in their half but truthfully, we could have played until the cows came home and still not scored. In the first half, we scored with our only shot on target, the only well-worked move that we pieced together ironically coming off a cross from the wing. As we chased an equaliser and a potential winner, we only had one shot on target and that was from a Bruno Fernandes free-kick. We kept a lot of meaningless possession, passing it sideways and backwards. There was no intensity in our play, there was a lack of movement by the players off the ball and there was no fire from the players. In contrast, Istanbul played with a lot of intensity, pressing us, chasing after every ball, attacking with pace and defending with resilience.
Dead Man Walking
The pattern so far this season has been that after a defeat like the one we had against Arsenal, we bounce back immediately in our next match. On that account, we should have beaten Istanbul. Instead, we produced a performance far worse than the last one against Arsenal. Since his appointment, I have supported Ole Gunnar Solksjaer. I felt we were heading in the right direction from late January 2020 onwards and had ended the season strongly. There was room for further improvement this season and it looked promising. Instead, the start of this season has been nothing short of a nightmare. So many things have gone wrong before a ball was kicked. The preparation for the season has been disjointed. We have struggled to cope with the demands of playing every three days. I get a feeling that if results don’t change fast, he will get sacked. Looking on from outside, he looks clueless on how to change the fortune of the team. The form of the team and his decisions have been patchy and inconsistent. Opinions change quickly in football and as long as he has the job, he has still got the time to change his fortune. The pressure has just intensified to another level, good luck Solksjaer!