Manchester United claimed a convincing win to take control of their Champions League group – a double from Bruno Fernandes, a penalty from Marcus Rashford and a late goal from Dan James gave Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s team a win that was as important as it was emphatic.
United’s fluidity and pace in the first half was fantastic; a sign of their ambition came as early as the second minute when Rashford danced past two challenges but couldn’t get a shot away.
As early as the seventh minute, United had their best moment of the game – a corner was not properly cleared and on the half volley from the edge of the box, Bruno Fernandes struck the ball beautifully and it flew into the roof of the net.
United’s first goal.
— ShadowsJerker (@JerkerShadows) November 24, 2020
Rashford then had the ball in the net after a fine move but was half a yard offside; Fernandes had another sighter from range just wide two minutes after that.
But United could not be denied further goals and they were presented them by defensive howlers – first, the goalkeeper dropped a Telles cross in the 20th minute to gift Fernandes a tap in, and then in the 33rd minute, Bolingoli was fooled into felling Rashford in the box. It seems to be the case in European games that the fouled player has the first right to take the kick – Rashford did, despite Fernandes being on a hat-trick, and he scored with some comfort.
— CD – Goals (@CD_Goals) November 24, 2020
The three goal lead was just what United deserved but more promising than that was the natural way and easy pace of that forward six players in combination with each other. Admittedly, the Turkish side were not as strong as they were in Istanbul, but United have been poorer against poorer opposition, so you take the positives where you can find them and there were plenty on show.
Much of that had to do with the vibrancy of Donny van de Beek in midfield. He wasn’t always precise with his passing but he showed urgency and commitment to get the ball back or get in good positions when it went awry; a simple attribute but one that has clearly been notable by its absence considering how significant a difference it appeared to make.
The big lead enabled Solskjaer to ring the changes – Lindelof was taken off at the break for Tuanzebe and then Rashford, Wan-Bissaka and Fernandes were given rests for Greenwood, Williams and James to get some minutes.
Greenwood’s desire to impress meant going it alone on a couple of occasions much to the frustration of Cavani.
Aside from that United were flat in the second period and couldn’t really get going; the visitors tested the nerve when they scored a sweet free-kick through Turuc. A couple of minutes later, Visca struck the bar from long range with a beautiful shot.
Solskjaer withdrew Martial for Matic in pursuit of pragmatism. It worked – no more scares, and one more thrill – Greenwood showed good composure to make the right decision right at the end, playing the ball across for James who confidently slid the ball home to make it four.
— noobfcb (@noob_fcb) November 24, 2020
In the end, 4-1 was slightly flattering, but probably representative after a strong first half showing.
One can wonder about the discipline issues that might come from playing Van de Beek and Fred together but having the new signing, Fernandes and Cavani on the field gave United a really strong trio from which Rashford and Martial could run; the opening forty minutes felt like the best we’ve seen all season and it felt a tweak or two away from United’s strongest side.
Solskjaer picked the right starting side and made the sensible changes – no hiccup, and as straightforward as he could have hoped for with all of the positive impacts he could have hoped for in the right places. Sometimes business as usual can be reassuring – and should be credited instead of just taken for granted.
De Gea 6
Van de Beek 8