MANCHESTER, England (AP) — Erik ten Hag had started the night by saying there were no excuses for Manchester United’s ever-worsening start to the season.
After a shock 3-2 loss at home to Galatasaray in the Champions League on Tuesday, the United manager struggled to come up with an explanation for his team’s latest setback.
“When I give an explanation, then you will see that as excuses. … We can’t make the errors we are now making,” he said. “We have to do better, it’s as simple as that, we have to win our games.”
United’s sixth loss in 10 games equaled its record at the start of the 1986-87 season, which led to former manager Ron Atkinson being fired and eventually replaced by Alex Ferguson.
That change ultimately led to the most successful period in the club’s history and Ten Hag is the latest manager to stumble under the pressure of trying to bring the good times back to United after Ferguson’s retirement 10 years ago.
The Dutch coach, who is the fifth permanent manager since Ferguson, conceded he was in a “very difficult period” after fans inside Old Trafford jeered his team for the second game in a row.
“We are fighting together, we will stick together, we are behind each other,” he said. “Me, the directors and team, all together, we will fight. We know we have to do better and together we will come out.”
Mauro Icardi’s 81st minute goal secured Galatasaray’s first away win in the Champions League since 2013 and increased the pressure on Ten Hag.
The striker had already missed a chance from the penalty spot to put the Turkish team ahead. But he was more clinical when racing on to Davinson Sanchez’s header and then lifting a shot over United goalkeeper Andre Onana.
It was United’s second defeat in its opening two matches in Group A of the Champions League to leave it bottom.
To make matters worse for Ten Hag, his team had twice led through goals from Rasmus Hojlund in each half.
But on both occasions Galatasaray produced quick replies to even the score through Wilfried Zaha and Kerem Akturkoglu, while Casemiro was sent off when bringing down Dries Mertens for a penalty in the 76th.
Icardi missed the resulting spot kick, but made no mistake later on.
Once again, the final whistle was greeted with boos from the home fans and Ten Hag had a familiarly solemn look as he made his way through the Manchester evening rain to the locker room.
“In the end the fans are disappointed as we are,” Ten Hag said.
United had gone into the game on the back of a latest defeat against Crystal Palace at the weekend in its worst start to a Premier League season.
Ten Hag had used his pre-game program notes to acknowledge United’s campaign had “not been good enough… we will not attempt to hide behind excuses.”
The home return to the Champions League under the floodlights of Old Trafford was the chance to inject some positivity.
While a 4-3 loss at Bayern Munich in its opening group game was a setback for United, qualification for the knockout stages is likely to rely on its results against Galatasaray and Copenhagen.
Hojlund was a rare positive for the home team and he showed his threat from the first minute with a run down the left and cross to Bruno Fernandes, who dragged his shot wide.
The $82 million striker fired United ahead in the 17th with a header from close range. Marcus Rashford burst down the right and lifted the ball across the area where Hojlund was powering forward to convert.
The lead didn’t last long, however, as Galatasaray evened the score in the 23rd.
Former United winger Zaha capitalized on a long ball from Sanchez by out-muscling Diogo Dalot and firing a shot into the ground that bounced over Onana.
United should have been in front again early in the second half when Rashford raced through on goal with Fernandes in support.
The striker looked to pass instead of shooting, but didn’t put enough power on the ball and that allowed Sacha Boey to clear.
Hojlund thought he’d scored his second of the night when turning smartly in the box and finishing, only to be ruled offside.
He scored again in the 67th when he seized on a loose ball from Sergio Oliveira near the halfway line. The Denmark international showed pace, strength and ball control to hold off Abdulkerim Bardakci and beat Galatasaray keeper Fernando Muslera.
The lead lasted only four minutes on this occasion as Akturkoglu converted from inside the box.
The visitors had the chance to go ahead soon after with Onana at fault. The keeper’s errant pass went straight to Mertens, who charged into the area. Just as he looked to shoot, his feet were taken from under him by Casemiro.
It was a penalty and second yellow card for Casemiro, which led to a red.
Icardi stepped up, fired low from the penalty spot, but his effort went the wrong side of the post.
The home fans cheered in relief.
Their joy didn’t last long, however, as Sofyan Amrabat’s ball forward was cut out by the head of Sanchez and directed into the path of Icardi.
With only Onana to beat, he coolly lifted his shot over the keeper and into the net to secure a famous win.
James Robson is at https://twitter.com/jamesalanrobson
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