Thursday, January 21

Bruno Fernandes leads Manchester United to victory for Basaksehir in Istanbul | Champions League

Manchester United achieved a nine-point victory and firm control of Group H. Bruno Fernandes once again proved himself the point man in Ole Gunnar Solskjær’s team, decorating the victory with two goals in his last dazzling display.

United’s dominance for most of the match seemed to make a 2-1 loss to the same opponents three weeks ago feel particularly bizarre until Deniz Turuc’s 75-minute free kick that surpassed David de Gea. Edin Visca then hit the crossbar to remind United how costly carelessness can be. However, in the end, United were a worthy victor and have now won their last three matches in all competitions.

Uruguayan Edinson Cavani had a first start on a United front row that also featured Fernandes, Marcus Rashford and Anthony Martial. Nacer Chadli, replacing Danijel Aleksic, was Basaksehir’s only change since their home win.

A blast from Rashford that knocked three Basaksehir players out of the game thanks to their pace and footwork ended with a tame direct shot at Mert Gunok. However, this suggested that United was seeking not to allow a repeat capitulation in Turkey’s capital.

When Alexandru Epureanu made a corner kick from the left of Alex Telles, Fernandes connected with a half volley as pure as possible from the edge of the area. The ball shot past Gunok towards the roof of the net for a perfect start at seven minutes.

Together they were a whirlwind of energy and invention. Martial, operating from the left, lifted a ball that narrowly missed Cavani’s jump. Rashford hit Gunok on the legs, but he was declared offside. Martial, Fernandes, Cavani and Donny van de Beek combined for Fernandes to aim directly for Gunok’s goal.

As in Istanbul, the only danger for United seemed to be of their own making and there was a warning when Demba Ba, who scored the first goal there, received the ball near the middle and was pushed by Victor Lindelöf after a loose play from the hosts.

So too, when Berkay Ozca passed in front of four United defenders and the ball went sideways to Visca, who should have done better than deflecting David de Gea’s goal.

Now, however, it was Basaksehir who was guilty of a self-inflicted blow. Martial found Telles and Gunok dropped his cross on Fernandes’ trail and finished with an impressive ninth in 13 appearances.

Mason Greenwood strikes during Manchester United's comfortable win at Old Trafford
Mason Greenwood strikes during Manchester United’s comfortable victory at Old Trafford. Photograph: Michael Regan / Getty Images

Basaksehir had been reduced to the scraps United allowed. Ba tried a snapshot, Irfan Kahveci served the ball and then United made a third. Lindelöf planted a 70-yard pass into Rashford’s path and Boli Bolingoli brought it down for a penalty. After a lengthy VAR review during which regular receiver Fernandes stood on the kick before handing the ball to Rashford, the latter converted easily to Gunok’s left.

Fernandes came close to a hat-trick when Rashford slipped away, but the goalkeeper denied him. And while Ba’s deflected effort on Harry Maguire was a warning, United were approaching halftime.

In the second half, Lindelöf was replaced by Axel Tuanzebe, perhaps influencing the Swede’s recent back injury. Fernandes once again propelled United forward with a labyrinthine run that ended with him passing the ball to Cavani. After number 7’s own shimmy, his shot went to a corner off Epureanu. This yielded nothing and now De Gea was called into action as Basaksehir moved up, Visca cut from the left and unloaded a shot, forcing the United goalkeeper to save low to his right. After a frantic call from United manager Kieran McKenna to Tuanzebe to “get closer to the post”, the resulting corner was cleared and the red shirts continued to dominate. Fernandes threw a cross and Rafael da Silva tossed the ball into Gunok’s hands.

Solskjaer decided on a triple substitution with Mason Greenwood, Brandon Williams and Daniel James replacing Rashford, Fernandes and Aaron Wan-Bissaka. Greenwood instantly anticipated a pass from Visca, hitting the ball past Bolingoli and skidding into the box to claim a corner. His delivery header led to another and this time Maguire stepped forward. A passage from Basaksehir’s game unfolded in which Tuanzebe’s vocal organization was noticed in the empty stadium as United once again took control.

In the end, they were worthy victors when James added a final quarter.

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