Fenerbahce ensured it was seven European away games without a win for Manchester United as the Turkish side leapfrogged both the Reds and Feyenoord to go top of Group A with a 2-1 triumph in Istanbul.
It was two quite brilliant goals that won it for the hosts, an incredible second-minute overhead kick from Moussa Sow and a sweetly struck free-kick from Jeremain Lens after the break. Wayne Rooney, back in the team up front, fired a similarly stunning goal as the game drew to a close, but it was too late to prevent United slipping to third place in the Europa League table.
Mourinho made three changes to the side that clocked up a record number of shots against Burnley at the weekend, with Rooney, the fit-again Anthony Martial and Morgan Schneiderlin replacing Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Juan Mata, who were named on the bench, and Jesse Lingard. Also amongst the substitutes was Phil Jones, yet to feature since January, and Henrikh Mkhitaryan, who was hoping to make his first appearance for nearly two months.
Former Reds striker Robin van Persie began the night on the bench for Fenerbahce despite scoring at Old Trafford two weeks ago and netting twice at the weekend in the Turkish league.
A cacophony of noise engulfed the players at kick-off and just over 60 seconds later, the sound was almost deafening as Sow scored one of the best goals many fans in the ground will ever have witnessed. An excellent cross from left-back Hasan Ali Kaldirim found Sow just inside the box and he adjusted his body to fire a quite stunning overhead kick into the roof of the net.
Bedlam in the Sukru Saracoglu Stadium ensued as United looked to regain composure after being left shell-shocked by that opening strike. Some good spells of possession and neat play followed, as did a shot from Marcus Rashford which he dragged wide. Anthony Martial played a lovely disguised pass to Rooney to put him through on goal on 21 minutes but a heavy touch allowed Fenerbahce to clear.
Soon after this, the lively Lens, who had earlier been brought down very close to the box by Schneiderlin, sent a header wide for the hosts who looked dangerous on the break.
United lost Paul Pogba to injury on the half-hour mark, but continued to dominate and his replacement Zlatan Ibrahimovic would have had the simple job of side-footing home Rashford’s cross minutes after coming on but for a brave intervention by Fenerbahce goalkeeper Volkan Demirel.
An already hostile atmosphere turned even more intense a few minutes before the break when Ibrahimovic and Simon Kjaer clashed on the touchline and Rooney was left rightly irked by a horrible dive from Souza which sparked more anarchy on and off the pitch.
There was still time for Sow to head a great chance over the bar just before a very hectic and unbelievably loud half came to a close.
Possession: Fenerbahce 30% United 70%
Shots: Fenerbahce 5 United 2
Shots on target: Fenerbahce 1 United 1
Corners: Fenerbahce 0 United 5
United’s Player of the Month for October, Juan Mata, entered the fray at the restart, in place of Schneiderlin, as the Reds continued the fight in trying to restore parity. Chances came for Rooney who flicked a header wide and then Mata who dragged an effort past the same post, but unfortunately it was Fenerbahce who were next to find the net, with another superb goal on 59 minutes.
Ibrahimovic’s foul on Mehmet Topal 25 yards out was punished by Lens, on loan from Sunderland, who curled home an unstoppable free-kick.
Mkhitaryan replaced Rashford immediately but it was Fenerbahce who continued to threaten. Indeed the decibel level almost went off the scale 10 minutes later when, a minute after coming on, substitute Emmanuel Emenike saw a shot blocked at point-blank range by David De Gea after Daley Blind’s challenge had managed to put him off balance.
De Gea was forced into another save from the same player six minutes later and the Spaniard breathed a sigh of relief when Emenike just failed to connect with a low cross which looked set to give the home side a third goal.
Rooney handed the Reds a lifeline one minute from time with a beautiful 25-yard shot into the top corner to become United’s joint highest scorer in European competition, alongside Ruud van Nistelrooy with 38 goals. The captain almost made it to 39 in stoppage-time, but his header from Mata’s corner was cleared off the line.
The Reds are still alive in Group A, but know positive results in the final two matches, at home to Feyenoord and away to Zorya Luhansk, will be vital.
Possession: Fenerbahce 30% United 70%
Shots: Fenerbahce 8 United 9
Shots on target: Fenerbahce 4 United 3
Corners: Fenerbahce 0 United 9
Fenerbahce: Demirel; Ozbayrakli, Skrtel, Kjaer, Ali Kaldirim; Souza, Potuk (Neustadter 83), Topal; Lens, Sow (Koybasi 87), Sen (Emenike 68). Subs not used: Fabiano, Ucan, Stoch, van Persie.
Booked: Demirel, Potuk, Ozbayrakli, Souza
United: De Gea; Darmian, Blind, Rojo, Shaw; Schneiderlin (Mata 46), Herrera; Rashford (Mkhitaryan 60), Pogba (Ibrahimovic 30), Martial; Rooney. Subs not used: Romero, Jones, Fellaini, Young.
Booked: Schneiderlin, Herrera, Mata