Manchester United may still be the Premier League’s form side – with five wins from their last six top-flight outings – yet it certainly doesn’t feel that way for those of a Red Devils persuasion, particularly amid their woes on the continent.
While Erik ten Hag’s men still have a slim chance of securing progression to the knockout stages of the Champions League heading into the final game week, their hopes were largely extinguished following another errant showing away to Galatasaray in midweek.
As has been the way for United in Europe this season, their woes defensively overshadowed a spirited attacking display, having been held to a 3-3 draw despite having led both 2-0 and 3-1 throughout the thrilling contest.
That high-scoring affair has ensured that the Old Trafford outfit have now conceded 14 goals from just five group games so far this term, with that undoubtedly not the record of a side that would be deserving of booking their place in the last 16.
Although the club’s fortunes in the league have been somewhat improved of late, Ten Hag must surely learn some lessons from Wednesday’s draw, ahead of another mouthwatering meeting away to Newcastle United at St James’ Park.
The major talking point heading into today’s match-up with Eddie Howe’s side will be the selection of under-fire goalkeeper, Andre Onana, with the Cameroonian’s head potentially on the chopping block following yet another chaotic and errant outing in Istanbul.
Andre Onana’s performance vs Galatasaray
It is fair to say that Onana’s time at United got off to a shaky start, notably making a colossal blunder against Bayern Munich in the Allianz Arena in the opening game of the group, while also producing a calamitous display at home to Galatasaray – having memorably been chipped by Mauro Icardi from close range.
The 27-year-old – who signed on a £47.2m deal from Inter Milan over the summer – had appeared to have turned a corner, however, following a last-gasp penalty save against FC Copenhagen, while in the league he has now helped to keep the joint-most clean sheets in the division.
With things beginning to look brighter for the polarising stopper, his midweek showing has thrust him back into the spotlight for all the wrong reasons, having first been wrong-footed by Hakim Ziyech’s first-half free-kick, before again turning his former Ajax teammate’s set-piece into his own net in almost comical fashion.
Such a dismal display – which earned the man in the sticks a lowly 5.9 match rating, as per Sofascore – has ensured that questions are once again being asked of his status as Ten Hag’s first-choice pick, with Turkey international Altay Bayindir still waiting in the wings.
If the latter man is not able to get a chance now after Onana’s European horror show, then when will he ever be able to get a look in?
With reports indicating that the ex-Inter man is fearing he may lose his place if he heads off to AFCON in the New Year to represent his country, Ten Hag could make the change even sooner starting with the trip to Tyneside.
Andre Onana drew attention away from how poor 6/10 Man Utd man was v Gala
This 6/10 man let Manchester United down alongside Andre Onana in the side’s 3-3 draw with Galatasaray.
Not that Onana should be the only casualty of the midweek collapse, with teammate Victor Lindelof another who deserves to be plonked back onto the bench.
Victor Lindelof’s game by numbers vs Galatasaray
With the likes of Jonny Evans and Lisandro Martinez currently sidelined – and with Raphael Varane not considered an option at left centre-back by the United boss – Lindelof has been the preferred pick alongside Harry Maguire of late in the heart of the backline.
That selection has been centred around the Swede’s perceived superior quality on the ball to Varane in that left-sided berth, notably spraying a delightful lofted pass out to Marcus Rashford in the build-up to Alejandro Garnacho’s stunner against Everton.
Such ability in possession can not cloud the 29-year-old’s shortcomings as a defender, however, as he was no doubt exposed in the end-to-end nature of Wednesday’s encounter.
As journalist Alex Turk noted, the former Benfica man just “isn’t very good at defending“, while content creator Alice Abrahams noted that it looks as if he is “scared of defending“, albeit while winning five of his five aerial duels.
Previously a player whom Jose Mourinho suggested can get “bullied” in the centre of defence, the experienced asset undoubtedly had some ‘meek moments’ against the Turkish giants, as per Manchester Evening News’ Samuel Luckhurst, who awarded him just a 6/10 match rating as a result.
Victor Lindelof’s 2023/24 Premier League season by numbers
11 games (9 starts)
90% pass accuracy rate
0.8 tackles per game
0.7 interceptions per game
33% aerial duels won
40% total duels won
Stats via Sofascore
Such woes were evidenced by the fact that Lindelof also lost possession on eight occasions and enjoyed a pass accuracy rate of just 79%, with his match rating of 6.3 the lowest of any starting player for the Red Devils.
The reasons why Victor Lindelof shouldn’t start against Newcastle
If Ten Hag is keen to stop shipping goals, then ousting Lindelof from his starting berth could be the way to go against a typically rampant and ferocious Magpies side.
In truth, the £120k-per-week asset can get ‘bullied’ as Mourinho suggested, having won just 40% of his total duels in 11 league appearances this season – Varane, by contrast, has won 70% of his total duels from his eight top-flight appearances.
As much as the Dutch tactician may want to get his side playing out from the back in a free-flowing manner, getting back to basics by turning to an out-and-out defender like the four-time Champions League winner could be an obvious solution.
Alternatively, with Ten Hag previously outlining his preference to have a left-footer in that role, the return of Luke Shaw from injury could present a short-term option, with the Englishman lining up in that berth on numerous occasions last season.
The long-serving full-back has slotted back in smoothly at left-back in recent games – notably providing a deft, flicked assist for Bruno Fernandes’ thunderous strike earlier this week – yet with Sergio Reguilon available to take on that attack-minded role, Shaw could move more centrally alongside England colleague, Maguire.
Either way, after the latest car-crash performance from United’s defensive unit, Lindelof – as well as Onana – should be resigned to a watching brief at St James’ this evening.