Erik ten Hag refused to criticise Andre Onana despite blatant errors from the Manchester United goalkeeper stopping the Red Devils having their Champions League fate in their own hands.
United’s Champions League hopes suffered yet another setback after a woeful display from Onana allowed Galatasaray to earn a draw in a thrilling 3-3 contest in Istanbul.
Ten Hag’s side performed well and twice held a two-goal lead but errors from Onana threw Galatasaray lifelines to leave United bottom of Group A with their hopes of reaching the knockout phase in the balance before their final game at home to Harry Kane’s Bayern Munich.
United, as they did in their last Champions League game in Copenhagen, were in a strong position early on after superb strikes from Alejandro Garnacho and Bruno Fernandes inside the first 18 minutes.
However, Onana’s poor attempt to stop Hakim Ziyech’s free-kick put Galatasaray back in contention before half-time. United then looked to have regained control of the match in a typically hostile atmosphere when Scott McTominay turned in Aaron Wan-Bissaka’s cross 10 minutes after the break.
But Ziyech was then gifted a second goal from another free-kick after yet another Onana error before Galatasaray substitute Kerem Akturkoglu’s explosive finish brought them level with 19 minutes left.
In a dramatic end to the match, former United winger Wilfried Zaha missed a glorious chance for Galatasaray while Fernandes struck the upright as United’s Champions League destiny was taken out of their own hands ahead of the last round of group fixtures.
And, speaking after the game, Erik ten Hag told TNT Sports: “We were winning and then we’re losing it. We should have taken three points, that’s clear. We did this in other games. I was pleased with how we played but at the same time I have to criticise the team because the defending is not good enough. We are leading 3-1 and we cannot afford mistakes as it makes a difference.
“Every goal has its own story. Whether it’s a transition moment and we don’t block the middle or the second goal which is a free-kick and the third goal we are organised but have an overload. That cannot happen. We have to learn from that.
“I am very pleased because you see the style of this team which is pro-active, dynamic and brave. I was pleased with the performance because we created so many chances but at the same time we have to win this game.”
As for who is to blame for throwing games away? “It’s always me. I am responsible for this. We know we are in a project. We are making improvements so that’s very hopeful. We are going in the right direction so I know we will be successful in the long-term but if you want to stay in the Champions League you need to win these games.”
“What on earth is the Man Utd goalkeeper doing there?!” 😳
— Football on TNT Sports (@footballontnt) November 29, 2023
Meanwhile, United skipper Fernandes was left frustrated at the goals his side conceded, telling TNT Sports: “It’s really hard. We conceded really bad goals. We have to take control of the situations in all of them.
“We were on top of the game twice and we had far too many chances to have the game closed. We were not clinical enough.
“I have nothing to explain. We concede the two goals and there’s nothing we can do now. Obviously we could have done better with those two goals but it is what it is.
“Every time we conceded a goal we had many chances to score again. At the end of the game we had four chances. We have to lift our heads up and try to get the best players in the best positions and not take chances ourselves. We need to put the team first. It was mistakes by ourselves on the goals we conceded.
“It’s too hard to be honest, I don’t want to be too negative. But what we have been doing in the Champions League is not enough. It is not the first game we’ve had like this. We have to secure the result.
“We have to understand in these types of games and stages we have to be smart enough and manage the game better. Everyone has to step up and take responsibility of their own mistakes. Now we don’t depend on ourselves but it is what it is.”
United are back in action on Saturday evening when they head to Newcastle in the Premier League.