Xenia Sports – London
Bruno Fernandes’ rocket set Manchester United on course for a comprehensive Champions League victory against Istanbul Basaksehir as Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s side took a big step towards the knockout phase.
After kicking off the European campaign with superb victories against Paris St Germain and RB Leipzig, defeat to the Turkish champions at the start of November threatened to derail the Red Devils’ Group H campaign.
But United exacted revenge and got back on track at an empty Old Trafford, where Fernandes’ first-half brace was complemented by Marcus Rashford’s penalty and a late Daniel James goal in a 4-1 win against Basaksehir.
Solskjaer’s side now only need a point from their remaining two Group H matches to secure progress to the last 16, which they have only reached three times since Sir Alex Ferguson retired in 2013.
The United great was in attendance on Tuesday and will have had flashbacks to Paul Scholes when Fernandes fired home a thumping strike on the bounce just seven minutes in.
Fernandes’ second of the evening was a tap-in after Basaksehir goalkeeper Mert Gunok flapped at a cross, with Rashford then firing home the spot-kick he won to put the hosts in cruise control.
The Portuguese looked rather annoyed to be giving the ball to the forward when hoping to complete a hat-trick just days after his spot-kick winner against West Brom.
United’s standards dropped in the second half and Basaksehir pulled one back late on as David De Gea failed to push out Deniz Turuc’s free-kick, but substitute James struck in stoppage time to add gloss to the scoreline.
Edinson Cavani, making his first United start, and Donny van de Beek impressed while Rashford, deployed on the right of Solskjaer’s front three, quickly made his presence felt.
The England forward displayed brilliant footwork and persistence inside the opening two minutes to make space for a shot that he could not follow up after an initial save.
Anthony Martial showed similar skill when twisting former United full-back Rafael’s blood before seeing his cutback thwarted.
The home side’s intent would soon translate into an early opener. Alex Telles’ corner from the left was only cleared as far as Fernandes on the edge of the box and the midfielder unleashed a stunning strike that flew into the top right corner.
It was as crisp a strike as you could wish to see and United kept their foot on the gas, with Fernandes sending a sublime ball through for Rashford to thread a first-time shot between goalkeeper Gunok’s legs from an acute angle.
The goal was ruled out for offside but United would get their second in the 19th minute. Telles swung in a cross and Gunok flapped with Cavani lurking, allowing Fernandes to turn into an empty net from six yards.
Visiting skipper Edin Visca was looking the Turkish champions’ biggest threat but United were keeping them at arm’s length, with Basaksehir’s hopes of getting anything out of this match extinguished in the 35th minute.
Victor Lindelof’s ball out from the back sent Rashford scampering through, only for Boli Bolingoli to barge him over in the box. Rashford stepped up for the penalty rather than two-goal Fernandes, sending Gunok the wrong way after a lengthy VAR review.
Demba Ba twice had chances to reduce the deficit before the break – the second leading Solskjaer to bellow at Aaron Wan-Bissaka – with Visca forcing De Gea into a smart low save shortly after the restart.
Rafael lashed wildly over as Solskjaer rung the changes that, combined with their comfortable lead, saw them chug along until the visitors pulled one back in the 75th minute. De Gea pushed away Turuc’s left-footed free-kick but referee Ovidiu Hategan pointed to his watch to indicate the ball had crossed the line.
United’s goalkeeper bellowed at his team to “wake up” after Visca rattled the woodwork soon after but there were to be no more scares.
Instead, the hosts added a fourth as Mason Greenwood crossed for fellow substitute James to coolly turn home at the end of a stoppage-time counter attack.