Fernandes and Van De Beek shine as free-flowing United seize the top spot in Group H.
After the blip in Istanbul, fans were glad to see United avenge themselves against Basaksehir and resume their fine form in the Champions League.
There was palpable excitement prior to the match as fans were finally treated to a trio of starts for Ole’s summer signings, with Alex Telles, Donny Van De Beek and Edinson Cavani all receiving the nod together for the first time this season.
It was Ole’s January signing however who sealed an energetic start to the game with a wondrous goal on 7 minutes, as Bruno Fernandes gave a timely reminder of his ability to find the goal from open play as well as the penalty spot. His rocket was swiftly followed by a tap-in thanks to Basaksehir ‘keeper Mert Gunok’s error, and with that the Portuguese took his tally to a staggering 21 goals in a mere 35 appearances for United.
In such an open game there were plentiful chances for both sides, and the visitors saw an uncomfortable number of opportunities to capitalise on defensive blunders. Thankfully, the gulf in attacking quality overwhelmed Basaksehir once again late in the first half as a beautiful Victor Lindelöf pass set Marcus Rashford through on goal, before he was hauled down for a penalty.
Once again the spotlight turned to Fernandes only for the former Sporting captain to remind us all of his outstanding leadership qualities, as he gladly passed up the opportunity up in favour of fellow headline-stealer Marcus Rashford. Rashford repaid the gesture, making no mistake from the spot.
45 minutes, 3 goals. The last time United went into half-time in the Champions League with such a lead was the 7-1 drubbing of Roma in 2007, an echo of a time when this team dominated the competition.
As the second half began there was a sense that the chaos of the first half was not to be repeated; the goal tally was stalled right up until the final 15 minutes. While blistering attacking play had placed United in the driving seat, concentration in defence had been lacking all evening and it was Deniz Türüc’s free kick that personified this shortfall, wrong-footing David De Gea and creeping over the line before a palm could reach it.
Nerves may well have begun to creep up on fans everywhere as United’s lead was shortened, however any smatterings of fear were put to bed as the clock counted down. With Basaksehir throwing men forward in search of a second United were able to launch a ruthless counter attack through Mason Greenwood, who found fellow substitute Dan James with the skill to tuck the fourth of the game away for United.
Upon the final whistle there were plenty of positives to take for Ole’s men, with none standing out more so than the performance of Donny Van De Beek. After arriving from Ajax in the summer the hard-working midfielder has waited patiently for his chance, and boy did he take it. Tirelessly winning back the ball from the opposition, collecting it from his teammates and delivering deadly balls forward, it seems that he has given Ole no choice in putting his name on the team-sheet against PSG next week.
In the meantime United face a tough trip to St. Mary’s on Sunday, and fans will be hoping that the incredible away form of 2020 will carry through to overcome one of the strongest Southampton teams of the Premier League era.