With Andre Onana’s Cameroon making it to the last 16 of the African Cup of Nations, new summer signing Altay Bayindir is finally set to make his long-awaited debut for Manchester United.
The former Fenerbahce keeper has had to be patient as Erik ten Hag has insisted on allowing Onana the time to find his feet in England, even when many have called for the Turk to be given a chance between the sticks.
With that debut fast approaching as United prepare to face Newport County in the FA Cup, The Times have gone into detail on who exactly United’s deputy keeper really is.
The 25 year old “is described by those who know him as “a humorous character”, but also has wisdom and maturity beyond his years. When making his debut for Ankaragucu in the third tier of Turkey, the keeper claims that he invested his first paycheck in “getting psychological support to improve myself”.
Bayindir, who stands at 6 foot and 6 inches (198cm) wasn’t always a keeper. After training one day, his mum saw him as particularly tired and she suggested that he switch position to goalkeeper so his tall frame didn’t have to take so much punishment, running up and down the pitch. Captaining Fenerbahce, representing his national side and earning a move to Old Trafford would suggest she was right.
The Turkish player is also described as a keen chess player who always wants to stay ahead. He spent hours in the gym bulking up while at Ankaragucu’s academy and while at Fenerbahce, took English lessons three times a week. He has continued his lessons in Manchester and he is now seen as “fluent” and “has been known to rib his team-mates and staff in a Mancunian accent”.
The man from Osmangazi has also spent a lot of time working with dieticians and sleep experts since moving to England in order to give himself the best possible preparation while he has waited in the shadows, biding his time to try and make the starting spot at Old Trafford his own.
“Bayindir, who used to practise karate, has always been a deep thinker. His bookshelf contains poetry by Sunay Akin, and self-help books such as Feeling Good: the new mood therapy by Dr David Burns. ‘They get my brain and nervous system under control,’ he said”.
He has needed that mental strength, as despite a positive first two years in Istanbul, his last year was substantially rockier. He was booed by sections of his own fanbase in a 3-0 derby defeat to Galatasaray and even had a plastic bottle thrown at him in the Europa League tie versus Rennes.
The keeper still decided to sign a new deal with a release clause, however. The rationale was so that the Turkish giants could recoup a fee for him, even though he could have left for free.
Cagri Davran, foreign desk editor of the Turkish publication Fanatik, has claimed that “Altay is a very good goalkeeper. He was treated unfairly. In Turkey, people have no chance to make mistakes and that increases the pressure on you a lot”.
The journalist has also questioned why Bayindir decided to join United, knowing he would be back up to Onana.
“Altay is not a back-up goalkeeper,” Davran said. “He’s a strong character, a leading player. His reflexes are very good, especially one to one. However, he can make mistakes when balls come in and his feet were not that good in Turkey, but I think he did extra training in England [to improve]”.
The Turkish keeper has settled in well to life in Manchester. He has found a favourite Turkish steakhouse in the city and has also taken part in numerous charity events for the club.
It took him a while to impress his teammates in training but that was also the case for Onana.
The explanation provided for why Onana has been afforded so much time is that Erik ten Hag is a big believer in “automations” – doing things so frequently, they become like second nature. The Dutch coach has been banking on the fact that defenders will just get used to Onana over time, as he is the superior passer out of the two keepers.
Speaking of Bayindir in November, Ten Hag said, “we are very pleased with his progress. He’s doing very well. He has to be patient, but if he works well, he will get his chance and then he has to take it”.
Wales and FA Cup football is where he will most likely get said chance. Regardless of what happens, we know Bayindir will have been preparing for it for months.