ISTANBUL • Manchester United manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer blasted “unforgivable” defending from his hapless side as they slumped to a 2-1 Champions League defeat by debutants Istanbul Basaksehir on Wednesday.
United, floundering in 15th place in the Premier League, started the game as firm favourites after an impressive 2-1 win against last season’s finalists Paris Saint-Germain and a 5-0 thrashing of RB Leipzig.
But defeat in Turkey – a first Champions League group-stage win for Basaksehir – heaps the pressure on Solskjaer, whose side looked short of inspiration and basic defensive nous in Istanbul.
They were badly exposed on the break as former Chelsea forward Demba Ba and Edin Visca gave the home team a two-goal cushion.
United gave themselves hope when they reduced the deficit shortly before half-time through an Anthony Martial header.
But despite multiple second-half changes and an array of attacking talent, Solskjaer’s lacklustre team could not find a way past the organised Basaksehir defence.
The result ended United’s longest away winning run in all competitions in their history – 10 straight victories – and was their first defeat on the road in 19 matches since losing in January at Liverpool in the league.
Solskjaer admitted the visitors’ display was not good enough.
“They scored two goals like you do in Europe when you do not defend well enough,” he told BT Sport. “The first one is that we play a short corner and forget about the man up top. That is unforgivable. The second one as well, we are not very well organised to counter the press.
“You don’t turn up and get three points in the Champions League. They are a team well organised and we were not good enough. That is it.”
The home side went ahead in the 12th minute after inexplicably poor awareness and organisation allowed an unmarked Ba to collect a long ball and race from the halfway line to score.
The Red Devils were caught napping again five minutes before half-time after Deniz Turuc robbed Juan Mata of possession before sending over a cross that Ba dummied for Visca to smash past Dean Henderson, who was making his Champions League debut in place of David de Gea.
They (two losses) have set us back a lot. You get a reality check every time you play a game of football.
This is massive for Ole, I think if they were to lose against (Everton), then that international break… that can be a graveyard for some managers.
United got one back when Martial headed a Luke Shaw cross home. But while Solskjaer sought to pep up his attack by hooking off Axel Tuanzebe at the interval and throwing on Scott McTominay, Edinson Cavani and Paul Pogba, they could not rescue a point in the Group H tie.
His side have now suffered consecutive defeats by Arsenal and Basaksehir and he called on his players to stand up and be counted ahead of their Premier League trip to Everton tomorrow.
“They (two losses) have set us back a lot,” he said. “You get a reality check every time you play a game of football.
“It’s not easy to be positive now. Of course it isn’t, when you’ve just lost the way we did. But these players are good players and we have a chance on Saturday morning to get going again.”
He also played down the sack rumours, insisting “it’s early on” and he would “stay strong”, but pundit Jason Cundy believes his future may hinge on a positive result at Goodison Park.
The former Chelsea defender told talkSport: “This is massive for Ole, I think if they were to lose against them, then that international break… that can be a graveyard for some managers.”
Social media has also been rife with speculation over a replacement, with Mauricio Pochettino once again being heavily linked with the role.
The former Tottenham boss has been without a job since being fired by the north London side last November, but he told Sky Sports earlier this week he was ready to return to the dugout.
“I always feel ready to be again involved in the game,” he said on Monday. I am looking forward to being involved in the game. You miss that, that’s the reality.”