Onana’s nightmare has Manchester United on Champions League brink

Onana's nightmare has Manchester United on Champions League brink
André Onana’s pair of clangers gifted Galatasaray a 3-3 draw against Manchester United in the Champions League on Wednesday. EPA/TOLGA BOZOGLU

Manchester United on Champions League brink: One of the banners at 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 hopes of qualifying for the Champions League. This season, the goalie has already made mistakes against Bayern Munich away and Galatasaray at home.

After leading 2-0 and 3-1 twice, Erik ten Hag’s team is stuck at the bottom of Group A with one round of games remaining. It would take a weaker team than this United one to score nine goals in three away games in Europe and not win any of them.

They have given up 14 goals in their five Champions League matches so far this season. Only Royal Antwerp, who have dropped all of their group stage matches, has given up more goals.

After the game, Ten Hag declared, “We win and lose together,” declining 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 like my squad to.

It was entertaining to watch because we scored fantastic goals and were aggressive, bold, and exciting. We persevered through some 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 players had carried out the difficult part and, for extended periods, were the superior team. After more than twenty hours of nonstop rain in the Turkish capital, the teams emerged onto a sodden pitch. They were met by a massive banner that said, “Welcome to hell,” but within the first twenty minutes, United had subdued the ferocious atmosphere 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 fired a rocket into the top corner from a distance of 25 yards. He should have covered his ears and fell on his knees in celebration, but he didn’t have to since the startling hush was replaced with a bewildered silence.

After the game, Ten Hag talked about how his team was better at “game management,” but it seemed like he was ignoring the fact that they would have probably won even without Onana’s help because Hakim Ziyech scored twice from free kicks that should have been saved.

Onana was caught off guard by the first as it slid past his right knee, but his error on the second, which came after McTominay had scored United’s third, was the kind that you see on DVDs of the greatest 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 net without the French striker making contact.

He was powerless to prevent Kerem Aktürkoglu, the substitute, 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 at the final whistle and needed to be comforted by his backup Altay Bayindir, Galatasaray goalkeeper Fernando Muslera, and Ziyech.

Ten Hag stated, “He is OK,” regarding Onana. “It is not about individuals, as I have stated. In football, of course, individual mistakes matter and you have to own up to them, but the team always comes first. This team is good, and every member of the squad is deserving of the best opportunity to play for Manchester United due to their exceptional skill. And that applies to the entire team.

We need to grow as a team because we are giving up too many goals, which is avoidable and needless. We will do better because I have no doubt that our team has the necessary skills and experience to handle this.

The group stage campaign has been centered around 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 nightmare, United is now guaranteed to miss the Champions League.

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