THROUGH hell and high water, Manchester United tossed away a crucial victory and left their Champions League qualification hopes hanging by a thread.
Having been welcomed by a giant ‘Welcome To Hell’ message from Galatasaray fans, in a match which had been threatened by torrential rain, United keeper Andre Onana suffered a nightmare evening.
Alejandro Garnacho opened the scoringCredit: Reuters
Scott McTominay scored United’s thirdCredit: Reuters
But Hakim Ziyech’s masterclass ensured the points were sharedCredit: Alamy
The Cameroonian twice blundered to gift Hakim Ziyech a free-kick double which pegged United back from two-goal leads.
Then a stunning equaliser from sub Kerem Akturkoglu denied United victory and left them needing Bayern Munich to beat FC Copenhagen later in the evening to avoid a group-stage exit.
In a breathless encounter, United had attacked with swagger, verve and intensity for so long – scoring twice in the first 18 minutes through Alejandro Garnacho and aFernandes belter before Rasmus Hoijlund looked to have sealed the deal with a second-half poacher’s strike.
Erik ten Hag’s side, who face Bayern in their final group match on December 12, had confronted a hostile environment with great composure early on and will be kicking themselves that they allowed victory to slip away.
The match had been in grave peril of postponement as Istanbul was battered by extreme rain, leaving the pitch looking unplayable a couple of hours before kick-off.
It was ‘Manchester weather’ as Ten Hag joked pre-match – reminiscent of the two-day wash-out which cost England’s cricketers Theat the other Old Trafford this .
But the wet stuff eased and, remarkably, it was game on.
Despite his outstanding full league debut at Everton on Sunday, teenage midfielder Kobbie Mainoo was left on the bench in favour of Sofyan Amrabat, while Hojlund and Antony returned from injury to replace Anthony Martial and the banned Marcus Rashford.
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Since their last Champions League defeat in Copenhagen, United had been buoyed by two league victories over Luton and Everton but this trip represented entirely different gravy.
The noise inside the Ali Sami Yen Stadium hammered at the eardrums during the warm-up and nobody English was made to feel welcome at this most chaotic and inhospitable of Champions League venues.
The words ‘Welcome To Hell’ were displayed in English on red and yellow sheets in the stand opposite the tunnel as the teams emerged – with the home fans fully embracing memories of United’s tempestuous 1993 exit at this venue.
Early on, Fernandes fed Garnacho, whose cross was almost bundled in by Hojlund as the shrillness of the crowd threatened to make your ears bleed.
And on 11 minutes, Garnacho grabbed another goal – not as spectacular as that at Everton but just as important.
Scott McTominay drove forward and Hojlund’s hold-up play was exemplary as he allowed Fernandes to find Garnacho, the Argentinian hammering into the roof of the net from an angle.
It was Garnacho’s first Champions League goal and, when he put his fingers to his lips in front of the home fans, he was pelted with missiles.
Garnacho’s fired his strike into the roof of the netCredit: Rex
But Onana’s howler ensured there would be no win for Man UtdCredit: Rex
Instantly, the Turkish side forced a corner and Onana made a fine sprawling save in the scramble – withappeals for a handball against McTominay ignored by the Spanish ref and his VAR.
Unperturbed, United netted a stunning second which silenced the din – Luke Shaw finding Fernandes who advanced and unleashed a rocket into the top corner.
Antony was outstanding, at one point speeding away from his own box, vaulting challenges and being chopped down at speed.
But the deficit was reduced just before the half-hour when Fernandes was booked for upending former Arsenal titch Lucas Torreira and Ziyech drilled the free-kick across the sodden turf, catching out a dumbstruck Onana.
Now, we had a real contest – a proper ferocious game of football.
Former Chelsea man Ziyech was soon weaving away again and lashing one narrowly over from distance, before a Wilf Zaha shot was brilliantly blocked by Harry Maguire.
Mauro Icardi thumped a shot past Onana but was narrowly offside, sparking fury in the stands.
But after Galatasaray had made a bright start to the second half, United netted again – Antony surging forward and finding an overlapping Aaron Wan-Bissaka who squared for Hojlund to poke in.
The decibel levels decreased significantly and Ten Hag sent on Mainoo and Martial.
But soon Ziyech – and Onana – were at it again, the winger whipping in a free-kick from the right and Onana flapping horribly to allow the ball under his arm.
And nine minutes later, Galatsaraty were level when sub Kerem Akturkoglu lashed a shot from out wide, beating Onana all ends up.
After Zaha had created space but shot straight at Onana, Fernandes lashed a long-ranger against the post.
Galatasaray had a goal ruled out narrowly by VARCredit: TNT Sports