Manchester United are an absolute joke and Rasmus Hojlund already deserves far better

Matt Stead
Manchester United players Andre Onana, Rasmus Hojlund, Antony and Bruno Fernandes react
What is the next step below a crisis? Asking for a friend

Manchester United conceded from a long ball, a throw-in and a defensive header. In a Champions League game. At home. While relying on a 20-year-old to rescue them in between, two months after joining.


It demands a special kind of incompetence to not only overshadow a £64m signing’s first two home goals, but to almost completely erase it from the narrative memory.

Unfortunately for Rasmus Hojlund, the club he has signed the next half-decade of a promising career over to deals in perhaps the most potent brand of ineptitude ever conceived.

The centre-forward was excellent in his first Champions League game at Old Trafford. His headed opener was underpinned by desire, bravery and determination; the strike to make it 2-1 exuded power, pace and a poise entirely unmatched throughout the rest of this crumbling squad. They were the icing and cherry placed atop a glorious cake of wonderful hold-up and link-up play.

What a shame every other course was inedible. Hojlund, a 20-year-old making his seventh appearance for Manchester United, set the example.

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No-one else could follow it. Not Raphael Varane, who committed the cardinal defensive sin of letting a high ball bounce in the build-up to Galatasaray’s first equaliser. Not Diogo Dalot, who compounded the same mistake by subsequently allowing Wilfried Zaha to take him for a walk in the Manchester United penalty area. Not Sofyan Amrabat, who looked precisely what he was: an emergency midfield loanee used at left-back.

Bruno Fernandes was dreadful, kicking things off with a rabona attempt that barely raised off the ground in the opening minutes when five teammates were waiting for a cross to attack, and barely improving from there. Casemiro continued his strange late-career rebrand as an elite creator with absolutely no defensive awareness. Marcus Rashford staved off any hope that his confidence and decision-making instincts had returned by following up a sublime cross for Hojlund’s opener by trying to square to Fernandes when he should have shot – and surely would have last season – after being played through by Christian Eriksen.

Then there was Andre Onana: sensational and almost unbeatable Champions League finalist five months ago, turned calamity keeper by the sheer weight of this Manchester United crisis.

An unpunished dropped cross around the hour mark felt like a red herring. Onana had little to do in the first half and the workload hardly increased thereafter; Galatasaray had four shots all evening and Manchester United had six in a 20-minute period following half-time – their best spell of the game by far. It did not feel like another comeback was in the offing.

It was not a coincidence that Eriksen had been introduced for Hannibal Mejbri by then; his passing had a transformative effect on the hosts. But that single Onana moment was even more metamorphic. It spread panic from the stands to the dugout and inevitably the pitch. The tension was palpable when, leading at home with 20 minutes to play against a side that had never won in this country, it should have been anything but.

Within 10 minutes, Galatasaray equalised, missed a penalty and scored the winner. Kerem Akturkoglu scored from a move which started as a throw-in within the visitors’ half; Mauro Icardi put his spot-kick wide after Onana’s hospital pass helped Casemiro wheel himself away with a red card after crashing into Dries Mertens; Icardi made up for it with a delightful finish after being played through by *checks notes* a headed clearance by Davinson Sanchez.

When literally just describing how events unfolded is the easiest way to damn a club, you know there is a problem.

Former Spurs centre-half Sanchez ended the evening with a couple of assists in a side boasting an eclectic Premier League flavour. Manchester United would likely consider themselves to be above signing Angelino, Lucas Torreira, Tete, Zaha or Tanguy Ndombele. All played a part in a famous Turkish victory. One was summarily deemed not good enough after a mutually regrettable and forgettable season. Zaha did indeed not look bothered when scoring his first-ever Champions League goal against his former club before cupping his ears to a smattering of boos.

That goal came six minutes after Hojlund’s first, while Akturkoglu struck within four minutes of Hojlund’s second. After conceding within a minute of scoring against Arsenal, then twice being breached by Bayern within four minutes of scoring in that disastrous group opener, a crippling lack of any discernible game management can be added to the growing list of Manchester United deficiencies.

Onana remains one of the toughest to solve. His errant pass forced Casemiro into the Brazilian’s latest suspension and the anti-Schmeichel tribute, making himself infinitely smaller for Icardi to dink the winner over him with 15 minutes left to play, was impressive. Onana genuinely got his hand higher forlornly and solitarily appealing for offside than he did in trying to save the shot, having not realised that even Darren England wouldn’t have struggled to spot Amrabat was a good five yards deeper than anyone.

Well done boys. Good process.

There was no onslaught. Manchester United had a single shot after Icardi made it 3-2, with Fernandes having an effort blocked. Galatasaray had four shots in that time, the latest team to walk into Old Trafford with their shoes on, put their feet on the table and make themselves at home.

The cameras cut to a despondent Hojlund with his head in his hands after the second goal. The Dane’s impeccable work had been undone yet again and he was seemingly lost as to what more he could do to fight the tide of his own club’s inadequacies; it is a shame his reaction to the third was not captured. As Manchester United blundered their way to a sixth defeat in 10 games, the fourth in which they have conceded at least three goals, the fact they are having to look in his direction as some sort of saviour at all is a joke.