Manchester United secured a comfortable Champions League win at Old Trafford, with Bruno Fernandes scoring twice against Turkish champions Istanbul Basaksehir.
After driving a half-volley into the net from the edge of the area, Fernandes put United two ahead inside 20 minutes when keeper Mert Gunok dropped a routine cross at the midfielder’s feet.
Despite scoring from the spot against West Brom three days earlier, Fernandes turned down the chance of a hat-trick when he let Marcus Rashford take the penalty after the England forward had been sent flying by Boli Bolingoli.
It was the first time United had led by three goals at half-time in a Champions League game at Old Trafford since Roma were routed 7-1 in April 2007.
The visitors pulled one back through Deniz Turuc’s curling free-kick and an Edin Visca shot that cannoned off the bar 10 minutes from time brought cries of “wake up” from United keeper David de Gea.
But there was no repeat of their shambolic defending in defeat in Turkey three weeks ago and Daniel James completed the scoring in stoppage time when he tapped home Mason Greenwood’s cross for his first goal since March – and his first on home soil in 15 months.
The win means United are top of Group H and need just a point from their remaining two group games to qualify for the knockout stage.
Cavani upstaged by Fernandes
Edinson Cavani has waited seven weeks for his first United start since joining on a free transfer in October.
But the Uruguay forward was not the centre of attention for long. In fairness, Cavani is not alone in being upstaged by Fernandes, whose arrival in January had a transformational impact on Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s team.
By the time he scored his second on Tuesday, his tally in the previous 175 minutes of action stood at five. His team-mates had managed one between them in the same period. It took his involvement in United goals to 34 in 35 games since signing from Sporting Lisbon, 16 more than any other player. Little wonder the absence of Paul Pogba with an ankle injury was not the blow it once might have been.
By contrast, Cavani’s only sight of goal came in the second half when he was crowded out and his shot was eventually blocked.
England forward Greenwood was also frustrated on his return to action – he last featured in the previous game between these teams – although at least he had the consolation of helping Wales winger James end his long wait for a goal at Old Trafford.
By the end, Solskjaer’s only concerns were potential injuries to centre-back Victor Lindelof, who was replaced by Axel Tuanzebe at half-time, and right-back Aaron Wan-Bissaka, who headed straight down the tunnel when he was taken off after an hour.
Still work to do for United
The emphatic nature of this game will only make United reflect on what a mess they made of the first meeting between the sides.
There was never a chance the visitors would join Fenerbahce and Besiktas in becoming a Turkish team to win in this stadium.
However, rather than securing a place in the last-16 – barring a mathematical improbability – with two games to spare, their third win in this group merely edges them further forward, and they know a draw is required against Paris St-Germain at Old Trafford next week to avoid a nervy last-day encounter at RB Leipzig.
The PSG game could turn out to be the first Champions League game in England with supporters present since March, depending on the level of restrictions Greater Manchester is placed under on Thursday.
Even before the visitors’ late flurry, United fans watching on television would have a couple of causes for concern before superstar forwards Neymar and Kylian Mbappe show up with the French champions.
First, the way Berkay Ozcan slalomed past three defenders on an early run into the box that ended with Visca firing wide, and then the space Demba Ba was afforded as he rose unchallenged, only to head disappointingly over.
Manchester United are next in action against Southampton in the Premier League at St Mary’s Stadium on Sunday (14:00 GMT kick-off).