Manchester United returned to the UEFA Champions League this season after finishing third in the Premier League last season. United last appeared in the competition during the 2018/19 season coming up against Young Boys, Valencia and Juventus in the group stages, finishing second to Juventus and coming up against Paris Saint-Germain in the round of 16, losing 2-0 at Old Trafford in the first leg. A 3-1 victory in Paris saw United make the quarter-finals, coming unstuck against Barcelona losing 1-0 at Old Trafford and 3-0 at the Nou Camp. United will be relishing this opportunity to play in the elite European competition once more.
This season, United have been drawn against French champions Paris Saint-Germain, Turkish champions Istanbul Basaksehir and German side RB Leipzig, who finished third in the Bundesliga also reaching the semi-final of the Champions League last season, beaten by eventual runners-up, PSG. It is a tough group for United and one that they should be seeking to get the best out of from the very start as they will need to start strong this season in order to ensure they get out of the group and prolong their participation in the competition this season. Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has a strong squad although they are licking their wounds at this moment in time.
Team Background and Pedigree
The Turkish champions were founded in 1990 as İstanbul Büyükşehir Belediyespor (Istanbul Metropolitan Municipality), so has been in existence for 30 years now. However, on the 5 June 2014, just six years ago, the club was renamed İstanbul Başakşehir Futbol Kulübü. It is one of the six Süper Lig teams to be based in Istanbul – the others being Fenerbahçe, Galatasaray, Beşiktaş, Fatih Karagümrük S.K. and Kasımpaşa. The Turkish side has won the 2. Lig twice (1992/93 and 1996/97), also winning the 1. Lig once (2013/14). During the 2019/20 season, they won the Süper Lig for the first time, having been the runners-up in the 2016/17 and 2018/19 seasons.
The club has also won the Turkish Cup twice, during the 2010/11 and 2016/17 seasons. In terms of a pedigree in Europe, the Turkish champions have played just 30 matches in European competition. They have participated in the UEFA Europa League, playing 24 times, winning seven times, drawing six but losing 11 times. They have also appeared in the UEFA Champions League six times, winning once, drawing twice and losing three times. They are expected to be the easiest team to play against in the group, but that is based on their pedigree in Europe and could be very much different when a ball is kicked.
Manchester United Connections
There is just one former United player that currently plays for the Turkish side, signing for the club on the 8 September 2020 on a free transfer, leaving Lyon; Rafael Pereira da Silva. The 30-year-old was signed by United in January 2008 alongside his twin Fábio Pereira da Silva, who currently plays for Nantes in France. Both players were unable to play for United until they turned 18 later that summer. Rafael made 170 appearances for United, scoring five goals and 15 assists in his time at the club. He was sold to Lyon for £2.5 million in the summer of 2015, for a low fee and perhaps ahead of his time at the club. He will be looking forward to meeting up with United.
Players To Watch
Rafael Pereira da Silva will be a player to keep an eye on, for obvious reasons but there are a few other familiar names in the Turkish sides squad this season; former Tottenham Hotspur winger Nacer Chadli, former Chelsea forward and Steven Gerrard slip advantage taker Demba Ba also former Liverpool defender Martin Škrtel. Ba scored 13 goals for his club last season, but this season they do not seem to be as strong as they were last season, starting poorly in the league and currently sit at the bottom with just one point in four matches. Of course, by the time they face United, they will have either improved, or hit rock bottom and will be taken for granted.
Where does İstanbul Başakşehir play their home matches?
İstanbul Başakşehir play their home matches at the Başakşehir Fatih Terim Stadium. The stadium broke ground on the 1 June 2011 and was opened on the 26 July 2014, taking just over three years to complete. The stadium is located in the Başakşehir district of İstanbul and was named after the successful Turkish footballer and national team manager Fatih Terim, 67 and the current manager of cross city rivals Galatasaray. In normal times, a total of 17,156 supporters would fit into the stadium, so it would have been a relatively small venue for United, based on the size of Old Trafford and the other stadiums they have played in all around the world.
Who manages İstanbul Başakşehir?
Okan Buruk is the current manager of İstanbul Başakşehir. He was born in Istanbul, Turkey on the 19 October 1973 and is 46 years old. He started managing the club on the 11 June 2019 and won the Süper Lig title in his debut season at the club, which was a good start for him. Buruk started his played career at Galatasaray at youth level, reaching the first team in 1991, plain for ten years at the club. He also played for Inter Milan, Beşiktaş and İstanbul Başakşehir before retiring. He has managed Elazığspor, Gaziantepspor, Sivasspor, Göztepe, Akhisarspor and Çaykur Rizespor – spending a season at each club before arriving back at his former club.
When will the matches against Istanbul Basaksehir be played, and where?
United will face the Turkish champions in back to back matches in the group stages this season with the third group stage match being played at the Basaksehir Fatih Terim Stadium in Istanbul on Wednesday 4 November 2020 with kickoff scheduled for 17:55 GMT. The reverse fixture will be played at Old Trafford almost three weeks later on the 24 November 2020 with kickoff scheduled for 20:00 GMT. Both teams, having played both Paris Saint-German and RB Leipzig by the time they first meet, could be in the position whereby they need to get some points on the board, if the worst came to the worst, which hopefully will not be the case for United.
Written by John Walker