ISTANBUL, Turkey, Nov 3- It won’t brighten Jose Mourinho’s mood to know that Manchester United lost to two goals of stunning quality in the Sukru Saracoglu Stadium.
He arrived in Turkey looking downcast and will leave all the more unhappy for what happened here.
United’s poor run of form continued with a Europa League defeat to Fenerbahce who went ahead after just 65 seconds with a marvellous overhead kick from Moussa Sow and secured victory in a bad-tempered encounter with a freekick from Jeremain Lens in the second half.
Wayne Rooney scored a late consolation with another great strike – equalling Ruud van Nistelrooy’s record of 38 goals in Europe for United – but it was not enough to change the outcome of this game.
Excluding qualifiers, it was United’s eighth defeat in their last nine games in Europe. The other was a draw.
It also pushed Mourinho’s side into third place in Group A and out of the qualifying spots in a competition he would gladly see the back of.
More painful was the sight of world record signing Paul Pogba limping off after half an hour which could jeopardise his chances of playing at Swansea on Sunday when Mourinho will serve a touchline ban and be confined to the stands.
It’s unlikely to be quite as hostile in South Wales as what he encountered here.
Istanbul no longer evokes quite the same trepidation as the place that famously welcomed Sir Alex Ferguson’s side to hell in 1993 but there are few nations in world football capable of making such a din, even when the visitors came out to warm up three quarters of an hour before kick-off.
It certainly promised to be a significantly greater test for United than a 4-1 victory when the two teams met at Old Trafford a fortnight ago.
Fenerbahce started the night unbeaten in their last seven Europa League games at home, having won five of them.
Mourinho again went for a strong line-up in this competition, making three changes from Saturday’s goalless draw with Burnley as Wayne Rooney, Anthony Martial and Morgan Schneiderlin replaced Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Jesse Lingard and Juan Mata.
There were also two notable names on the bench in Phil Jones and Henrikh Mkhitaryan. Jones had not been seen in action for United since January 2 due to a succession of injuries, while £26.3million summer signing Mkhitaryan had not been since the derby defeat by Manchester City almost two months ago.
‘We are a bit in trouble,’ said Mourinho before kick-off, referring to the loss of three defenders in Antonio Valencia, Eric Bailly and Chris Smalling. ‘The injuries are not easy ones, they are all in the same area. These boys are coping well. They have kept two clean sheets and Phil Jones is making an effort to be ready in case of an emergency.’
Yet United found themselves behind to a quite stunning goal with just one minute and five seconds on the clock.
Play was spread wide to left back Hasan Ali Kaldirim on the touchline and he swung a cross towards the edge of the penalty box.
Marcos Rojo failed to make any kind of challenge on Sow who went airborne, meeting the ball with a perfectly-executed overhead kick off his right boot.
The ball arced over David de Gea and went in off the underside of the bar.
Mourinho clapped his hands to encourage his team but he might as well have been applauding the goal because it was certainly one to savour.
The noise in the Sukru Saracoglu Stadium went up another level and so too did Fenerbahce.
When the troublesome Alper Potuk cut inside Schneiderlin in the 12th minute only to be brought down by the Frenchman, it was perilously close to the penalty box.
The official behind the goal got it right and Schneiderlin got a booking before Potuk’s free-kick was met with a header over the bar by Mehmet Topal.
Ander Herrera, sent off for two yellow cards against Burnley at the weekend, was next into Serbian referee Milorad Maciz’s book for tripping Souza.
United’s first real sight of goal did not arrive until the 21st minute when Martial’s clever reverse pass found Rooney onside and in space.
In years gone by, there would probably have been one outcome but what happened next summed up the England’s captain’s form at the moment.
Rooney’s first touch was heavy and clumsy, knocking the ball straight to Martin Skrtel who cleared the danger.
It was to be Rooney’s last contribution in that position. Seven minutes later, Pogba limped towards the touchline after sustaining what appeared to be a dead leg in a challenge with Souza and was clearly unable to continue.
Mourinho immediately summoned Ibrahimovic off the bench and he went up front with Rooney dropping into the No 10 role.
United were already starting to dominate possession but they began to look to more purposeful following the change.
Rooney seemed to be gaining in confidence at last and Martial was more keen to get in the game, both taking greater responsibility on the ball.
Ibrahimovic also showed he was up for a fight as well, barging into Simon Kjaer as the two men chased the ball to the touchline, and was lucky not be booked as he grabbed the Dane angrily by the throat.
It sparked a brief melee and another followed just three minutes later when Rooney challenged Souza as he took a free-kick and objected to the Fenerbahce No 6 going down to easily.
It was a lively end to an equally lively first half, with United clearly determined to make up for that poor start.
The decision to replace Schneiderlin with Mata at half-time reflected Mourinho’s belief that Fenerbahce would continue to sit deep and more guile was needed to open them up.
Martial almost succeeded as he cut inside and crossed for Rooney to glance a header narrowly wide in the 55th minute, and then Mata drilled a shot past the same post from a goalmouth scramble moments later.
But United were stunned by a second Fenerbahce goal against the run of play in the 59th minute. It came after Ibrahimovic fouled Topal as he tracked back to try and halt the defender’s run in the 59th minute.
Jeremain Lens lined up the free-kick 25 yards from goal, curling it over the wall and into the top corner with De Gea rooted to the spot. It was another goal of genuine quality, if slightly unfair harsh on Mourinho’s side.
They could easily have conceded more after that, however, as Fenerbahce substitute Emmanuel Eminike went close three times in the dying minutes.
De Gea denied Eminike at point-blank range after he barged his way through, got down low to keep out his shot from 20 yards, and then saw the striker just fail to connect with Lens’s cross to the far post with the goal gaping.
Rooney at least gave United something to show for their efforts when he thundered home a great diagonal shot in the 89th minute to equal Van Nistelrooy’s record.
It also puts him two off Sir Bobby Charlton’s all-time best. But that will be little consolation to Mourinho and his players right now.
-By Daily Mail–