Football NewsAltay Bayindir Set for His Man United Debut Against Newport County
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Altay Bayindir will need to duck his head as he steps through the door of the cramped away dressing-room at Rodney Parade and makes a right turn towards the tunnel on Sunday.

Then the 6ft 6in goalkeeper, Altay Bayindir, will follow his teammates across an amber carpet that surrounds the pitch here and onto the grass for his Manchester United debut.

It will mark the end of a long wait for Bayindir since he joined United for £4.3million at the start of September. He has sat patiently on the bench for nearly five months while Andre Onana started every single game this season. But with Onana otherwise engaged at the Africa Cup of Nations in Ivory Coast, his understudy will finally get a chance to show what he can do in South Wales.

Bayindir’s last first-team appearance of any kind came 16 miles down the road at Cardiff in November when he came on as a substitute in Turkey’s Euro 2024 qualifier against Wales.

An FA Cup fourth round tie away to League Two opponents is probably not the scenario Bayindir would have selected to make his United bow and become the first Turkish player in the club’s history. The 25-year-old will spend half the game with his back to a temporary stand that has boosted the capacity to 9,000.

Could it be a situation that Newport can exploit? ‘We’ve got to get into United’s half first,’ jokes Newport boss Graham Coughlan. ‘If we can get over the halfway line, then we might be able to test whoever the new goalie might be.

‘We know that Onana won’t be coming back, he’s gone across to the Africa Cup of Nations and he’s staying, so there will be a new face in goal. Whoever they put in, they are elite players, Premier League players, for a reason.

‘Whether it’s the debutant, we don’t know. We’ll deal with that on Sunday.’

Bayindir certainly won’t be fazed by the hostile atmosphere. After all, this is a goalkeeper who spent five years playing in Turkey, no place for shrinking violets.

He left home in Bursa at the age of 15 and moved to the capital Anakara. Within three years he was captaining Ankaragucu, and Fenerbache two years after that.

It was Bayindir’s mother who first suggested that he would be better off playing in goal because of his height. Her son has devoted himself to being physically and mentally prepared ever since, displaying a maturity beyond his years.

A keen chess player, Bayindir likes to read poetry and self-help books. He is already fluent in English after starting lessons while still playing at Fenerbache, and is said to be keen to tackle Spanish and Dutch next.

He has enlisted the help of a dietician since moving to England, as well as a personal physio and fitness coach.

Maybe it’s because Bayindir’s final season at Fenerbahce was clouded by concerns that he had never fully recovered from shoulder surgery in 2021 and an operation on a back hernia early last year. A section of the fans turned against him.

It’s said that he is not as strong on crosses as a keeper of his size ought to be, and not yet as good with his feet as Onana – a key reason why United manager Erik ten Hag signed his former Ajax No 1 for £47.3m last summer and has played him in every game.

But Onana has had enough blips in his first season at Old Trafford to leave the door open. Bayindir has waited this long for his chance. Now it’s up to him to seize it with both hands.