Bruno Fernandes brilliance enough as Manchester United see off spirited Istanbul Basaksehir

Mark Critchley
·4-min read
Rasford and Fernandes celebrate for Man United (Getty Images)
Rasford and Fernandes celebrate for Man United (Getty Images)

Manchester United are firmly in control of their Champions League destiny after a controlled performance and 4-1 win over Istanbul Basaksehir. Two Bruno Fernandes goals and a Marcus Rashford penalty were enough to overwhelm the Turkish champions, who offered some late resistance until Daniel James rounded off a third straight victory for Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s side.

A repeat performance of the dismal 2-1 defeat in the reverse fixture could have left Solskjaer’s side in a precarious position, with last season’s runners-up and semi-finalists - Paris Saint-Germain and RB Leipzig - to play in their final two games. Instead, United are in command of Group H knowing that a mere point in either game will be enough to seal progression to the knock-out stages.

United were so comfortable at times that you wondered how they contrived to lose to the same opponents in such shambolic fashion three weeks ago - a side who are currently sixth in the Turkish Super Lig, no less. But that would be unduly harsh on a night when - aside from some late sloppiness - Solskjaer’s side improved on that display in Istanbul to such an extent that there was little room for criticism.

With Edinson Cavani making his full debut in a frontline alongside Fernandes, Rashford and Anthony Martial, as well as Donny van de Beek pulling the strings from a deeper role in midfield, there was more movement, variance and unpredictability to the attack than in the weekend’s win over West Bromwich Albion and perhaps more than in any outing this season.

READ MORE: Are Manchester United becoming too reliant on Bruno Fernandes’ penalties?

Fernandes is particularly enjoying himself at the moment and reminded everyone that his goal-scoring prowess is not confined to the penalty spot after just seven minutes.

His 20th goal in 35 games since arriving in January was the best of the lot to date - a venomous half-volley, drilled from the edge of the penalty area in the inside-right channel, timed to perfection after Alexandru Epureanu’s half-clearance.

<p>Martial and Cavani celebrate with Rashford</p>Reuters

Martial and Cavani celebrate with Rashford


Think Paul Scholes at Villa Park in 2006 only from closer in with the ball bouncing for a half-second and therefore ever so slightly less impressive. The Basaksehir goalkeeper could nevertheless do nothing to stop it, which is more than can be said for his efforts on United’s second. It was a gift from Mert Gunok who - distracted by Cavani’s near-post run - fluffed the routine catch of an Alex Telles cross and let the ball run through for Fernandes to tap into an empty net.

<p>Fernandes and Rashford celebrate</p>Getty

Fernandes and Rashford celebrate


On for his first United hat-trick, nobody could have blamed Fernandes had he taken the eighth penalty that Solskjaer’s side have won already this season. And yet he instead handed the ball to the man who had won it. Rashford had not only done well to pick Victor Lindelof’s long ball out from the sky but to also advance into the box and tempt Celtic loanee Boli Bolingoli into an unnecessarily forceful shoulder barge.

Rashford at least paid homage to Fernandes with a delayed run-up before dispatching into the bottom right-hand corner, sending Gunok the wrong way. This contest was as good as over after barely half an hour but Harry Maguire almost made the closing stages of the first half competitive by losing Demba Ba on a free-kick. The former Chelsea striker sent a free header high and wide.

Solskjaer felt secure enough to make three changes in one go before the hour mark, with Fernandes and Rashford among those to depart, but there was little room for complacency. The next goal went Basaksehir’s way and it was preventable. In fact, David de Gea got both hands behind Turuc’s free-kick from 25 yards out but only once it had clearly crossed the line. The United goalkeeper has enjoyed something of a renaissance of late, reinvigorated by the challenge of understudy Dean Henderson, but his movement towards Turuc’s strike was late.

<p>Deniz Turuc scores from a free kick</p>AFP

Deniz Turuc scores from a free kick


The visitors rallied in the final quarter-of-an-hour and United briefly threatened to turn one of their most comfortable victories of the season into something far more fraught. When Edin Visca’s strike from range rattled De Gea’s crossbar, it was the wake-up call they required. James’s first goal since lockdown - a neat finish past Gonuk after a rapid stoppage-time counter - ensured there would be no surprise comeback. United have almost negotiated their way out of the Group of Death. One point will do it.

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