'That's how United should play'

Thursday 30 November 2023 15:09

Now the dust has settled on the 3-3 draw at Galatasaray, it is possible to view it without looking through the lens of Manchester United twice dropping a two-goal lead and, subsequently, leaving our hopes of progressing in the UEFA Champions League appearing remote.

I think it is worth pointing out that, just as it is irrefutably true some media will inevitably train most of their focus on the negatives of any performance, there is also clearly a danger that club channels can be too positive.

However, when the sixth goal went in at RAMS Park, the play become so end to end and absorbing, the Turkish journalists beside me were pointing out that this was a classic unfolding below us. It was an absorbing game of football, one you could not take your eyes off, and was top-notch, high-octane entertainment which, if nothing else, must have been fun for any neutrals.

Of course, it felt far from fun at the final whistle, even if Galatasaray’s supporters didn’t hail the result as loudly as I’d anticipated, perhaps realising they still have a big job on their hands against FC Copenhagen to qualify.

Yet there was a sense of some satisfaction about the way United played, the bravery Erik ten Hag referenced in his post-match interview we did for MUTV. I don’t know why but there was something almost nostalgic and heartening to hear the closing stages of this thriller unfolding to the backdrop of the chants of ‘United’ from the away section, rather than the ear-splitting whistling of the home fans.

Highlights: Galatasaray v United Video

Highlights: Galatasaray v United

Watch the key moments from our Champions League trip to Istanbul...

You see this is how I always view the way we performed under Sir Alex Ferguson, perhaps through slightly selective memory. If we are to go out, we’ll die on our shield and finish on the front foot, playing with the purpose and intent that merits that familiar refrain from the Red Army.

It is not being too biased to argue a winner, from Scott McTominay, Anthony Martial, Bruno Fernandes or Facundo Pellistri, taking one of those late chances that we created, would have been deserved.

And I think, for all the frustration at again conceding too readily, as has been a feature of this European campaign, the forward play was a joy to behold, particularly from my vantage point so high up in the stadium in Istanbul.

I cannot speak for those fans who made the long and expensive trip to Turkey and how they feel but that backing towards the end hinted they appreciated the team’s efforts. We keep getting told that football is a results industry but there has to be a respect for entertainment, surely even more at Manchester United than most places.

This has not always been the case in these European fixtures, particularly when the away-goals rule was in effect. Sometimes the plan was to shut up shop and try to nick a precious away goal, even under Sir Alex, or at least until a fighting fire with fire approach in 1998/99 reaped the most brilliant of dividends.

So often those travelling supporters would end up with no moment to let loose and celebrate and this is, ultimately, why we go to games.

Witness the remarkable footage from Goodison Park that went viral, the glorious slow-motion shots illustrating the ecstasy of the realisation that Alejandro Garnacho had scored a goal that will forever be replayed. This is why we love football, even if VAR does threaten to strangle this emotion (although that debate is not for here).

What United need on matchday six


The Champions League permutations are clear for the Reds ahead of Tuesday's fixtures.

Maybe I’m being too simplistic and idealistic but when I had to make an arduous journey to Barcelona in 1999, all I really wanted, and said so at the time, was a goal to celebrate and make it all worthwhile.

Okay, so we already had the Double in the bag to ensure the most forgiving of moods, but that was genuinely all I felt I could ask from that superb side. Anything else was a bonus and it would turn into the greatest night of my football-supporting life.

I mean we failed to score in each of our previous three visits to Galatasaray. I’d much rather have a 3-3 draw, even one where the opponents have come back, than a 0-0 stalemate with little goalmouth action.

Perhaps I am in the minority here and it should all be about winning, at all costs. I cannot deny the obvious need to tighten up, particularly in those key moments following our goals. Yet there are reasons to be positive and you really don’t have to look too far for them.

When people ask me on my return home if I enjoyed the game, the answer has to be yes.

Did I like the way United played? Yes, I did.

Were there moments I could see it all clicking and coming together? Definitely.

Ten Hag: We should have won the game


Read and watch what Erik had to say following a breathless Champions League encounter in Istanbul.

All that was lacking was the most important thing – the result.

But dwelling solely on the negatives, while understandable in the context of our ambitions, might not be the best course of action ahead of Newcastle United on Saturday.

The opinions in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of Manchester United Football Club.