5 talking points as Man Utd slip to dismal defeat to Istanbul Basaksehir
Manchester United’s season suffered another setback as some bizarre defending contributed to a 2-1 defeat to Turkish champions Istanbul Basaksehir.
Former Newcastle and Chelsea forward Demba Ba was given the freedom of the three-quarters of the pitch to race clear and fire the hosts ahead after United had kept players forward from their own corner.
Edin Visca blasted home the second amid more poor defending, and although Anthony Martial pulled a goal back before the break, the visitors never really got into their stride throughout the game.
Solskjaer’s side pressed in the second period, but Basaksehir held on to record their first ever Champions League win.
Here are the game’s talking points.
1. What on earth was that?
When Bruno Fernandes and Juan Mata, two of United’s most creative players, combined to take a short corner on the right in the 12th minute, the one thing you wouldn’t have thought they’d be conjuring was a goal for the home side.
But then it seems we were suddenly playing by alehouse rules.
Ba could hardly have imagined he’d have the freedom of Istanbul to break clear from the subsequent lump forward after Aaron Wan-Bissaka’s poor cross, with only Nemanja Matic, halfway inside the Basaksehir half, seemingly paying any attention to him.
The Senegalese, in a fashion we’ve seen before, was able to pump his 35-year-old legs to run away from Matic, who is 32 going on 62 and seemed to be treading water in the Bosphorus as he ‘raced’ back.
It was the type of goal you’d be disappointed to concede on Hackney Marshes, if anyone was still allowed to play there.
2. United’s chronic lack of pace is a problem
It isn’t just Matic who was continually left in the starting blocks though.
Solskjaer’s changes to his United team left them looking alarmingly slow from the off, as all throughout the side there didn’t appear to be the type of pace and dynamism you’d associate with an outfit at this level, or indeed United against Leipzig last week.
It might have been that the Arsenal result spooked Solskjaer a bit and so he wanted to make sure he stacked his side with his footballers here, but in crucial areas his side just looked ponderous.
Juan Mata can still shine when he’s got good movement around him but he didn’t have that here, while the failings of Harry Maguire and Luke Shaw in defence were all too easily exposed.
And by extremely modest opposition.
3. Midfield mix is maddening
Having faced scrutiny over just why he wasn’t using summer signing Donny van de Beek too much in the season’s first few weeks, Solskjaer now appears to have arrived at a point where he’s not too sure what do do with any of his midfielders.
The Dutchman started with Matic in the middle here, but by the hour we were seeing Scott McTominay and Paul Pogba, and Matic was back in defence.
Fred was unused on the bench too, perhaps with a short turnaround to Everton in mind on Saturday lunchtime, but can anyone confidently say which individuals will line up in the middle for United in that game? And in which positions?
Solskjaer seems to just be muddling through things in the centre of his team, leaving it looking less like an engine room and more like a tank that’s running on empty.
4. United hit with blasts from the past
In recent years the Turkish champions have become a home for much of the cast of Sky Sports’ Premier League Years, with Ba, Martin Skrtel and United old boy Rafael all starting here.
Former Tottenham man Nacer Chadli was injured and so missed out, while Emmanuel Adebayor, Robinho and Gael Clichy have all drifted through the club of late too.
The most impressive? Ba might have scored, but it was the continually rough and ready former Liverpool defender Skrtel who looked the most like his old self.
Now 35, the Slovakian has never been one to stand on ceremony, and in a way United rather played into his hands here as their lack of imagination in attacking areas allowed him to simply clear his lines repeatedly.
And he was always pretty good at that.
5. So, what now?
The brass tax of it is that this isn’t a disastrous result for United, who beat Paris Saint-Germain away and Leipzig at home in their first two games in the group and so have plenty of leeway.
But… well… it’s just not very good is it?
The club’s Premier League home form is something that you’d think might be more of an issue for Solskjaer if there were paying customers inside Old Trafford to witness the dim defeats to Crystal Palace, Tottenham and Arsenal as well as the dull draw with Chelsea.
The manager is getting away with that at least, but for how long do the club want to persist with an approach in which successes seem to emerge more from hope than anything?
Defeat at Goodison Park on Saturday could result in an awkward two weeks of introspection.