UEFA Champions League: 4 takeaways from Man Utd’s latest embarrassment in loss to Galatasaray

Manchester United’s grim opening to the 2023/24 season continued on Tuesday night with a 3-2 loss at home to Galatasaray.

The Red Devils twice led against the Turkish champions at Old Trafford but endeavoured to allow their visitors back into the game and essentially gifted them the three points on offer.

Rasmus Hojlund put United ahead before Wilfried Zaha came back to bite the hand that used to feed him in typical Football Manager fashion. After the break, Hojlund restored the hosts’ advantage, only for Kerem Akturkoglu to level the scores again minutes later.

In the final 15 minutes, Casemiro was sent off as United conceded a penalty. Mauro Icardi missed from the spot but made amends with a lob over Andre Onana soon after.

United have now lost six of their first ten games in all competitions this season, including their first two Champions League group stage fixtures. Here are 90min’s key takeaways from their latest humbling.

  • Rasmus Hojlund is a stud

Right, let’s start with the only real positive from Tuesday night.

Hojlund is him. He’s the real deal. The bees knees. The man trying to stand between United and oblivion.

It got lost in the talk of his goal record – 10 in 34 for Atalanta last season – and comparisons to Erling Haaland due to their Nordic heritage and similar names that Hojlund is close to being the complete striker.

His ability to hold the ball up, stretch play and wander the channels when needed and become a penalty-area menace make him the number nine that United have long been crying out for.

Hojlund’s first goal saw him crash in a header from close range, getting a yard on Davinson Sanchez to nod in a thunderous volleyed cross from Marcus Rashford.

In the second half, he had a goal chalked off for offside, but managed to wow Old Trafford by side-stepping right-back Sacha Boey in the lead up to his thumping finish.

He did secure his brace soon after, sprinting with the ball from the halfway line and dinking beyond Fernando Muslera.

  • Andre Onana is causing more problems than he’s solving

David de Gea needed moving on, there’s no need to rewrite history and say he should have been kept on ludicrous wages as his skills declined even more sharply.

But it’s becoming increasingly clear there may have been misjudgement over Onana’s suitability to replace him.

The Cameroonian is skilled with the ball at his feet but so far he’s either not been asked to play intricate passes and instead just hoof it long, or he simply can’t do it in the United pressure cooker. At least De Gea didn’t pass the ball directly to the opposition either.

Onana brings zero presence between the sticks and Galatasaray were able to take advantage of this for the winner, with Icardi’s chip funnily a rather a low one, but the goalkeeper somehow squirmed under the ball as it trickled over the line.

  • The opposite of ‘mentality monsters’

Six minutes after Hojlund gave United the lead, Zaha levelled the scores. Four minutes after the Dane restored that advantage, Akturkoglu equalised again. Three minutes following his penalty miss was Icardi afford the time and space to score the winner from open play.

Holding onto leads isn’t a particularly pressing problem for United given they’ve rarely been in a position to even throw them away so far this season.

That, really, is where the issue lays. United lack conviction in taking their chances and aren’t solid enough a team for a game to be drawn if they cannot win it – they have won four and lost six from their first ten matches, to press that point a little further.

United are not ruthless at either end of the pitch and that has been their undoing again and again. They are not a clinical or potent attacking side nor a mean defensive one. A fair-weather team with their expectations will always crumble under weight of pressure.

  • Erik ten Hag should be under more pressure

Erik ten Hag is not in danger of being sacked and nor should he be. The job he did last season was net-positive despite some humiliations, ending United’s trophy drought and delivering a top-four finish despite being written off before a ball had been kicked.

But the insinuation he cannot possibly deliver under the circumstances of United’s poor ownership, infrastructure and takeover saga is obscene. He is ultimately the manager and needs to shoulder the bulk of responsibility for what happens on the pitch.

United have backed Ten Hag with many big-money signings at his request, at times seemingly bending over backwards to deliver on players who weren’t worth the hassle.

Ten Hag has stressed he is trying to improve the culture of what was a broken club when he found it, but dissent and off-field problems are ramping back up again and are happening on his watch.

Their extended injury list is partly down to poor luck, though several times already this season (we are only in October) have United looked dead on their feet early in the second half. Such a fitness issue is down to coaching.

United could be excused for a slow start given the giant dark cloud continually hanging over Old Trafford, but Ten Hag’s side shouldn’t be this bad.

What we know

  • Man Utd beaten 3-2 by Galatasaray at Old Trafford on Tuesday
  • Rasmus Hojlund shone but plenty of his teammates shrunk in the spotlight
  • Key takeaways and analysis from their latest loss

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