Bruno Fernandes was integral for Manchester United yet again as he scored a brace in Tuesday's 4-1 Champions League win over Istanbul Basaksehir, taking them a step closer to the last 16.
United had suffered a shock 2-1 defeat in Turkey prior to the international break that provided Group H rivals RB Leipzig and Paris Saint-Germain with encouragement, but Ole Gunnar Solskjaer's men bounced back at Old Trafford.
It was not entirely plain-sailing early on for United, who did afford Basaksehir a few chances, but the hosts were clinical in the first half as Fernandes netted twice – the first a glorious strike – to take his goal-involvement tally to 34 in 35 games for the club.
Marcus Rashford converted a penalty before United appeared a little more conservative in the second period, and Basaksehir pulled one back via a Deniz Turuc free-kick before seeing Edin Visca hit the crossbar, but the Red Devils sealed victory nevertheless as Daniel James struck a much-needed late goal.
It took United just seven minutes to begin the scoring, and they did so in style, Fernandes lashing a ferocious half-volley in off the crossbar from just outside the box after Basaksehir partially cleared a corner.
The Portugal star was in the right place at the right time 12 minutes later, on hand to tap in from close range when Basaksehir goalkeeper Fehmi Mert Gunok inexplicably spilled a routine cross.
Fernandes might have had a hat-trick just past the half-hour mark, but he allowed Rashford – who earlier had an effort disallowed for offside – to take the penalty that the England international had won following a foul by Boli Bolingoli.
5 - Marcus Rashford has scored five goals in his last four Champions League games, as many as in his first 18 appearances in the competition. Comfortable. pic.twitter.com/Yd3w9waJhk— OptaJoe (@OptaJoe) November 24, 2020
United lost Victor Lindelof to an apparent injury at the break and Basaksehir quickly looked to put a bit of pressure on them, with Visca forcing David de Gea to tip a fine effort around the post.
Basaksehir enjoyed more pressure late on, with Turuc's free-kick crossing the line despite De Gea's best efforts as he became the first player to score direct from a set-piece in the Champions League against the Red Devils since March 2010.
Visca then rattled the bar from distance as United began to flag but a turnaround was beyond the visitors, with James making certain in injury time as Mason Greenwood set him up for a simple finish.
What does it mean? Job done for United as crunch matches await
A victory over Basaksehir here was the only acceptable result for United and Solskjaer given their final two group games are of course against Leipzig and Paris Saint-Germain, both of whom are still desperately tussling over second place, the Ligue 1 champions having beaten the German side 1-0 on Tuesday to move level with them on six points.
Given the inconsistency United have shown this season, heading into those matches level on points with them would have given most fans feelings of unease and trepidation. Of course, they could still fail to progress even with nine points, but the odds are certainly in their favour.
Fernandes stamps his authority
It cannot be a coincidence that the biggest dip in United's performance on Tuesday came after Fernandes' exit. The Portugal star had a team-high four shots – three of which were on target – and they obviously led to two goals. On top of that, he also laid on three key passes. That was one less than Alex Telles, though the Brazilian played the full match.
Kahveci offers little
Ordinarily one of the stars of this Basaksehir team, it was a difficult day for Irfan Can Kahveci. The midfielder had just 25 touches of the ball, the fewest of his team's starting XI, he made no key passes and had hardly any presence defensively, failing to make a single tackle, clearance or interception.
Key Opta Facts
1 - Deniz Türüç is the first player to score a direct free-kick versus Man Utd in the Champions League since Franck Ribéry for Bayern Munich in March 2010. Consolation. pic.twitter.com/9vW9cB5UMe— OptaJoe (@OptaJoe) November 24, 2020
- Manchester United have won their past seven home games in European competition by an aggregate score of 24-2.
- Istanbul Basaksehir have lost their previous four away games in major European competition by an aggregate score of 12-2.
- United have scored nine goals in their two Champions League home games this season, compared to just three goals in five league games at Old Trafford this term.
- Daniel James became the first Welshman to score a Champions League goal for United since Ryan Giggs against Benfica in September 2011.
- Marcus Rashford has scored five goals in four Champions League games this season – as many as he had netted in his first 18 appearances in the competition.
United return to Premier League action at Southampton on Sunday, before hosting PSG in the Champions League three days later. Basaksehir face Denizlispor on Saturday and then welcome Leipzig on Wednesday.