It was a goal that has been described as “never ever seen” before…for all the wrong reasons.
The 35-year-old former Premier League striker Demba Ba could not believe his luck, being given the freedom of the city to run clear and score Istanbul Basaksehir’s first ever Champions League goal.
Edin Visca doubled the lead for the Turkish champions courtesy of further poor defending and although Anthony Martial pulled a goal back, Manchester United could not salvage a result and Basaksehir picked up their first win in the competition.
But the opening goal was all that everyone was talking about.
United boss Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, who is now under severe pressure, said: “The first one is that we play a short corner and forgot about the man up top. That is unforgivable.”
Analysis – ‘Solskjaer needs to change the narrative with spectre of Pochettino looming’
BBC Sport’s Simon Stone:
These are worrying times for Ole Gunnar Solskjaer.
Mauricio Pochettino’s appearance on Sky Sports on Monday was a reminder of his availability – and given he was on a three-man shortlist to replace Louis van Gaal in 2016, eventually losing out to Jose Mourinho, evidently there is an attraction there on both sides.
United sources flatly rejected suggestions Solskjaer’s job was under threat in the aftermath of that 6-1 humiliation by Tottenham at the beginning of October but there did seem to be peril in the following fixtures that contained meetings with Paris St-Germain, RB Leipzig, Chelsea and Arsenal amongst others.
Nobody thought the greatest peril lurked in Turkey.
Nobody – players, coaches or manager – came out of the debacle of Demba Ba’s opener with any credit. Paul Scholes labelled it “under-10s defending”. That United’s players managed to get themselves into that ridiculous position suggests a lack of game intelligence and adherence to whatever plan was put in place for the game by Solskjaer and his staff. Assistant manager Mike Phelan can be seen pointing to Nemanja Matic, alerting him to the danger. Evidently, any plea to address the situation went unheeded.
It all leaves Solskjaer on the back foot, heading to Everton, where by his own admission he endured his worst day as United boss, when his side lost 4-0 in 2019, after which he vowed to ensure such embarrassments did not happen again.
The problem for the Norwegian is that they have returned, and keep on coming back. It is not terminal for Solskjaer just yet. But he needs to change the narrative otherwise the spectre of Pochettino will get bigger and bigger.
‘Comical’ and ‘computer game’ defending
How the first goal unfolded was utterly astounding.
United had a corner which they played short and took their time getting into the box. The ball eventually dropped loose and allowed Visca to look up and punt a long pass upfield.
With United’s defence deserting their duties, Ba had a one on one with goalkeeper Dean Henderson from the halfway line, before coolly rolling in.
Ex-Manchester United striker Dion Dublin told “That is absolutely embarrassing from Manchester United. It is lack of organisation, lack of leadership.”
Former Manchester United midfielder Paul Scholes said on BT Sport: “It is completely down to organisation. It’s like under-10s football. Embarrassing. What the defence were doing I have no idea.
“The goal is comical, laughable. That can only be a player’s fault – that’s not down to the staff or the coaches.”
Former United defender Rio Ferdinand said: “You wouldn’t see this on Hackney Marshes. Where is the defending? There is zero organisation. Where is the person organising that?
“I hope Ole is telling them they are embarrassing him. I hope he is very animated in the dressing room because those players need a rocket.”
Ex-United striker Robin van Persie said: “I have never ever seen a goal conceded like it. Defensively it is so very poor.”
Solskjaer added: “You don’t see goals like that at this level. You shouldn’t concede easy goals like that. When you concede goals like that it makes winning matches a lot harder.
“We have not done our roles. It is my responsibility. A short corner and we forgot our defending duties.”
Solskjaer ‘declines to comment’ on dismissal talk
United were humiliated 6-1 at home by Tottenham last month, but recovered by winning three of the next four games, which included a draw against Chelsea.
But after Sunday’s poor showing in the 1-0 home defeat by Arsenal and another abject performance in Istanbul, the pressure is on Solskjaer.
United have not won any of their past six at home in the Premier League, while defeat by Basaksehir ended a run of 10 straight wins on the road.
Van Persie said he is not a “big fan of sacking coaches”, while ex-United midfielder Owen Hargreaves called Saturday’s league fixture against Everton a “huge game”.
Asked if he fears for his job, Solskjaer said: “I decline to comment on such a thing. It is early on. Opinions are there all the time. We have to stay strong.
“I am employed by the club to do a job and I’m doing that to the best of my ability with my staff.”
After the game, “#OleOut”, the phrase “lose to Everton”, and “Poch” – in reference to former Tottenham manager Mauricio Pochettino – were all trending on social media.
Speaking on Sky Sports on Monday, Pochettino, who has not managed since being sacked by Spurs on 19 November 2019, said: “I need to wait for the right project. I will not close any door,
“I always feel ready to be involved in the game. It is my passion not my job.”
What you said on #bbcfootball:
Linda: The players know the basics so you can’t blame the manager for that. They just can’t be bothered. Maybe they want Ole gone? They are certainly going the right way about it. Disgusting.
Garry: It’s time for a change. I would like to see some passion and belief in the shirt, there comes a point when the team go with you or they are against you and this is that time.
Tony Keating: When will they learn that shambolic defending does not win games, switch on and stay switched on. Ole give me a call if you want some help.