André Onana and the importance of a team over the individual

<span>Photograph: Murad Sezer/Reuters</span>
Photograph: Murad Sezer/Reuters


In the full edition of yesterday’s Football Daily, the world’s most tea-timely football email flagged up a piece that had just been published on Big Website. A well-crafted paean of praise for André Onana, it detailed how Manchester United’s goalkeeper had finally rediscovered his mojo after an extremely jittery and gaffe-prone start to his career at Old Trafford. In this carefully considered piece, the author made the not entirely ridiculous point that, after keeping clean sheets against Luton and Everton, United have “finally stemmed the flow [of goals] at the back”, in a state of affairs that was due in no small part to “Onana starting to prove his worth”.

Needless to say, Football Daily called it. In linking to this homage headlined “André Onana is finally finding his feet at Manchester United”, we noted that its publication would almost certainly scupper any chance the Cameroonian letter-inner might have of playing well against Galatasaray in a match his side really needed to win to have a realistic chance of advancing to the knockout stages of Big Cup. If you haven’t read it yet, you can find it on our Manchester United keyword page, buried beneath more recent articles and video clips headlined “Ten Hag refuses to blame Onana after United’s Galatasaray draw” and “Manchester United undone by Onana’s gifts in six-goal thriller”, among others.

Yes, it’s fair to say Onana has finally found his feet alright, although on Wednesday night he played like a man who’d screwed them on to the end of his wrong legs. Showing all the positional acumen of Percy Fawcett trying to find his way out of an Amazon rainforest, the hapless goalkeeper let in two extremely soft free-kicks from Hakim Ziyech, who was so surprised to see the second one go in he had the good grace not to riff on Onana’s obvious anguish by refusing to celebrate his strike too much. “It is not about an individual,” tooted Erik ten Hag after the game. “Individual errors in football can make a difference and you take responsibility for it, but it is always about the team.”

The importance of the team over the individual was a point reiterated by Bruno Fernandes during his post-match pow-wow with TNT, although he was clearly taking a very thinly disguised pop at Anthony Martial, who had been angrily berated by his captain for some glory-hunting selfishness as United went all out for a late winner. And to be fair to Onana and Martial, on a biblically wet night in the febrile environs of Rams Park, there was plenty of blame to go around for United’s shortcomings, even if Fernandes elected to gloss over the two daft free-kicks he gave away that were the root cause of Onana’s howlers. Before a match in which the chaos that has plagued Manchester United behind the scenes for years finally found its way on to the pitch, Ten Hag had issued a stern warning to his players. “You have to stay calm in your head and don’t get too emotional,” he’d said. “Control emotion, don’t give them anything.” So that went well, eh?


Join John Brewin from 5.45pm GMT and Scott Murray at 8pm for clockwatch coverage of the latest Big Vase action, including AEK Athens 2-3 Brighton, Backa Topola 1-2 West Ham, Liverpool 3-0 Lask and Rangers 2-1 Aris Limassol.


“He said he loved soccer. The players’ comments ranged from ‘All right, mate?’ to ‘Who’s that w@nker?’ … Not a lot of respect was shown” – the memories of former Chelsea striker Steve Finnieston in this piece by Jonathan Wilson about Henry Kissinger, who has died aged 100, and his curious links with the game.

Henry Kissinger takes in the 3-3 Division Two draw between Chelsea and Wolves at Stamford Bridge in December 1976.


So, after the fifth round of Big Cup group games, Manchester United’s chances are up in the air and out of their hands. Just like the ball and André Onana” – Neil Bage.

In my humble opinion, all overhead/scissor kicks (Football Daily letters passim) in a crowded penalty area, should be deemed dangerous play. Bah humbug” – Jack Doyle.

Bob Mortimer’s autobiography (yesterday’s Football Daily) is indeed excellent, but with one major flaw: he doesn’t mention Glenn Hoddle in it. I studied for my law finals with Bob at Manchester Poly and we played in the same faculty football team (Bob was a bustling, skilful, but rather dirty midfielder). I was initially delighted when he nicknamed me ‘Glenn Hoddle’, a sobriquet which stuck and was adopted by my teammates. Given that I was, what might be termed an ‘agricultural centre-half’, I liked to think it was because of my hair, but in truth I suspect it more likely, despite his claim never to have expressed an opinion, that he was doing just that on my footballing ability and taking the p1ss” – John Myles.

Send any letters to Today’s letter o’ the day winner is … John Myles, who lands a copy of Woman Up, by Carrie Dunn. We’ve got one more to give away, so get typing.