From hell to purgatory. Manchester United are left in limbo about their European future this season, after a game at Galatasaray where both sides left everything on the pitch. Andre Onana, however, let two free-kicks in.
There was still more to an utterly thrilling 3-3 draw than that, as United lost a lead for the fifth time in five Champions League group games. This was also the second by two goals.
That should torment Erik ten Hag, even as it would have delighted anyone else watching on. This was so much more entertaining than the divinely perfect football we’ve come to expect from the competition’s best level and there is, of course, a lesson in that.
This might have been the way to put on a show. It isn’t the way to go about an away game in the Champions League.
There should be an even greater aggravation to that for Ten Hag, though. So much of United’s attacking play looked like what you would consider his ideal. It was a long-awaited reminder of last season’s best form, particularly Scott McTominay’s counter-attacking finish that should have won it.
It was all there. There was connection combined with emphatic force, as was seen with Alejandro Garnacho’s glorious strike for the first after that exquisite little through ball.
There was pure individual inspiration, as seen with Bruno Fernandes’ blockbuster. There was then incision at pace, as they cut through Galatasaray for McTominay to slide in.
This is the way United should be playing.
The great question for Ten Hag, that is directly connected to the quandary of how they keep losing leads, is whether they can only play that way by going so open? It is some way removed from Pep Guardiola’s suffocation through possession.
It is even further away from so many of United’s drab league games. There, there’s been a more dour resilience, where performance has actually obscured relatively acceptable form.
This still shouldn’t be acceptable, though. United just shouldn’t be in this position. That could have been said before this game, but this made it much worse.
It’s like there’s no in-between. It’s either “control” to the point of boredom or abandon to the point of this chaos.
Galatasaray of course contributed. They were often as good in attack, and just as porous at the back. The number of chances they were willing to just offer up late on. It’s incredible they still came out with a draw.
For that, they can look to United’s goalkeeper. One Hakim Ziyech free-kick like that would have been bad enough. Two might well be a season destroyer. It will be all the worse given he had recovered. There hadn’t really been a major error since the supposed turning point of the penalty save against Copenhagen.
It was just another twist in this group stage.
The one excuse that might be made for Onana is that the conditions made it especially difficult, particularly in situations like those free-kicks. It was also like a player as clever as Ziyech knew that. He went for it.
Again, there was more to it than that. Like Galatasaray at the other end, United gave up so many chances that any two or three of a number of efforts could have ended up as goals. Kerem Akturkoglu's brilliant sweeping strike was one. That could have happened many times over. The chaos reduced the match to an element of blind luck – especially late on. That last proper move United had, where the ball ricocheted around Fernando Muslera’s goal, summed it up.
It could have gone anywhere. As it is, United are going out. It should never have come to that. There are questions for Ten Hag there, beyond his choice of goalkeeper.
How are they this erratic after a year and a half? How is it they have found a relatively forgiving group so punishing? How can translate some of this attacking to the league, without bringing that mayhem at the back?
This is what United need to look to, other than a miracle.
Hell, as Galatasaray still attempted to style their new Rams Park, wasn’t the place for that.