29.11.2023 22:11 h

Galatasaray fightback puts Man Utd on brink of Champions League exit

Manchester United manager Erik ten Hag insisted his side are going in the right direction despite a 3-3 draw at Galatasaray on Wednesday that leaves the Red Devils on the brink of Champions League elimination.

United twice let a two-goal lead slip in Istanbul as costly errors from goalkeeper Andre Onana and poor finishing left them still bottom of Group A.

Ten Hag's side need to beat Bayern Munich in their final match at Old Trafford to have any chance of qualifying.

But even victory over the German champions will not be enough if Galatasaray beat FC Copenhagen in two weeks' time or the Danish champions take at least four points from their final two matches.

"We are going in the right direction so I know we will be successful in the long-term but if you want to stay in the Champions League you need to win these games," said Ten Hag.

"I was pleased with how we played but at the same time I have to criticise the team because the defending is not good enough. We are leading 3-1 and we cannot afford mistakes as it makes a difference."

A huge banner unfurled before kick-off said "Welcome to Hell" but the vociferous Galatasaray crowd were silenced by two United goals inside 20 minutes.

Alejandro Garnacho scored one of the all-time great Premier League goals with a stunning overhead kick to put United on course to victory at Everton on Sunday.

The Argentine's opener was less spectacular but still impressive as he rifled into the roof of the net from Bruno Fernandes' pass.

Fernandes then produced a powerful, dipping strike from outside the box that left Fernando Muslera helpless.

United's five Champions League games this season have produced 26 goals.

And failing to hold onto leads has been a recurring failing from Ten Hag's side.

Twice Galatasaray came from behind at Old Trafford to secure their first Champions League away win for 10 years and they opened the door to the Turkish giants once more.

Fernandes was guilty of conceding a needless free-kick on the edge of his own box.

But Onana must bear the bulk of the blame as he was too easily wrong-footed by his former Ajax teammate Hakim Ziyech, who fired into the bottom corner.

United looked to have restored order at the start of the second period when Scott McTominay regained their two-goal cushion.

Fernandes led a clinical counter-attack as he fed Aaron Wan-Bissaka down the right and his cross picked out McTominay to slide in his first Champions League goal.

However, United were again pegged back by another glaring error from their goalkeeper.

Onana earned his move to the Premier League off the back of excelling for Inter Milan on their run to last season's Champions League final.

But the Cameroonian has repeatedly made errors for the Red Devils in Europe and Ziyech's second was arguably the worst of the lot.

The Moroccan's free-kick was straight at Onana, who only conspired to punch the ball into his own net.

To rub salt into United wounds, it inspired another Galatasaray fightback.

Kerem Akturkoglu's perfect control and deadly accurate finish flew past Onana at his near post to level 19 minutes from time.

United should still have emerged victorious as they picked the hosts off at will on the counter-attack but failed to take a raft of chances.

Garnacho, McTominay and Facundo Pellestri all fired promising openings off target.

Fernandes then struck the post with another wonderful strike from long range.

"I think at the end of the game we had like four chances to score a goal," said Fernandes. "We have to put our heads up and sometimes it is about another pass, find the player that is free, trying to get the best one in the best position and not taking the chance ourselves."

But United could also have lost and been mathematically eliminated on the night when Wilfried Zaha fired too close to Onana late on.