One of the placards in Rams Park in Galatasaray said, “Your nightmare is back again”. It was particularly true for André Onana, who seems to be making a habit out of Champions League howlers.
The Cameroon goalkeeper made two disastrous blunders on Wednesday in Istanbul to give the Turkish champions a 3-3 draw and end Manchester United’s chances of qualifying for the Champions League. This season, the goalie has previously made mistakes against Bayern Munich away and Galatasaray at home.
After leading 2-0 and 3-1 twice, Erik ten Hag’s squad is stuck at the bottom of Group A with one round of games remaining. It would take a worse team than this United one to score nine goals in three away games in Europe and not win any of them.
They have let up 14 goals in their five Champions League matches so far this season. Only Royal Antwerp, who have lost all of their group stage matches, has let up more goals.
After the game, Ten Hag declared, “We win and lose together,” refusing to place the responsibility on Inter Milan summer transfer Onana, who cost him £43 million. “This team’s growth is evident. I’ve learned a lot from this game. Despite a few errors, we performed how I would expect my squad to. It was entertaining to watch because we scored fantastic goals and were aggressive, bold, and exciting. We persevered through several setbacks and, with good opportunities from Scott McTominay and Facundo Pellistri, we should have won.
“Of course, I am disappointed because we should have managed the game better, we will learn from that.”
Ten Hag’s greatest annoyance would be that, prior to Onana’s errors, his men had carried out the difficult part and, for extended periods, were the superior side. After more than twenty hours of continuous rain in the Turkish capital, the teams emerged onto a sodden field. They were greeted by a massive banner that said, “Welcome to hell,” but inside the first twenty minutes, United had subdued the ferocious mood in the stadium.
Alejandro Garnacho was the first to show off his confidence after scoring a game-winning overhead kick against Everton on Sunday. He told everyone to calm down and walked into hell. The 19-year-old scored the goal after a fluid team play, smashing it into the net’s roof and celebrating in front of the Galatasaray supporters with a barrage of missiles fired from the stands.
Before launching his own rocket, Captain Bruno Fernandes was left to gather up the items and remove them from the field.
He took a few steps forward after stealing the ball from Luke Shaw on the left, and with his right foot, he sent a rocket into the top corner from a distance of 25 yards. He should have covered his ears and fell on his knees in joy, but he didn’t have to since the startling hush was replaced by a bewildered silence.
After the game, Ten Hag spoke about how his side was superior at “game management,” but it seemed like he was ignoring the reality that they would have probably won even without Onana’s help since Hakim Ziyech scored twice from free kicks that should have been saved.
Onana was caught off guard by the first as it slipped past his right knee, but his error on the second, which came after McTominay had scored United’s third, was the type that you see on DVDs of the worst errors in football history. Perhaps anticipating that Anthony Martial would head Ziyech’s cross clear, the United No. 1 was taken aback by the ball’s speed and punched it into his own goal without the French striker making contact.
He was unable to prevent Kerem Aktürkoglu, the replacement, from making it 3-3 with a bullet finish. However, the harm was already done at that point.
As his United colleagues shuffled off down the tunnel, Onana was stunned on the field after the final whistle and needed to be comforted by his backup Altay Bayindir, Galatasaray goalkeeper Fernando Muslera, and Ziyech.
“He is OK,” Ten Hag remarked of Onana. “It is not about people, as I have said. In football, of course, individual mistakes matter and you have to own up to them, but the team always comes first. This team is excellent, and every member of the squad is deserving of the finest opportunity to play for Manchester United due to their exceptional skill. And it applies to the whole team.
We need to grow as a team because we are giving up too many goals, which is preventable and needless. We will do better because I have no doubt that our staff has the necessary skills and expertise to handle this.”
The group stage campaign has been centered on vulnerability at the back, but Onana has had more of an impact than others by making critical errors at crucial junctures—a fact that Ten Hag may not want to acknowledge. After the most recent episode of his ongoing misery, United is now guaranteed to miss the Champions League.