If it feels like Altay Bayindir has faced a long, drawn-out wait for his Manchester United debut, that’s probably because he has.
The Turkish goalkeeper, who joined from Fenerbahce for just £4.7million, has sat on the sidelines while Andre Onana – United’s other summer signing – played 29 consecutive games in all competitions.
But with Cameroon scraping through to the Africa Cup of Nations knockout stages, Bayindir will, at last, get his chance to make his first appearance against Newport County in the FA Cup fourth round.
Erik ten Hag is the last of the Premier League clubs to rotate his goalkeepers this season. That should not be seen as a slight against Bayindir’s qualities, perhaps, more so, an acceptance of the fervent backing the Dutch boss has given Onana.
But Bayindir’s time has now arrived, affording him an opportunity he could scarcely have dreamt of when he made his senior debut aged just 17 in Turkey’s third division.
Having left home at 15, Bayindir moved to Turkey’s capital, Ankara. Third-tier Ankaragücü was where he landed but he soon began to make his mark.
Having been in the academy for three years, he was thrust into the limelight at 17 to make his debut, quickly going on to become club captain a year later.
As Ankaragücü managed back-to-back promotions to reach the Super Lig, Turkey’s biggest clubs soon came calling. A move to Fenerbahce soon arrived in 2019 where he quickly displaced Harun Tekin to become first-choice keeper.
Ahead of his second season, and still aged just 20, Bayindir would become one of the team’s captains. A senior international debut followed at the end of that season, with Bayindir cementing his status as one of the club’s rising prospects.
A rocky patch
How then, does one of Turkey’s brightest keeping prospects, depart a little more than two years after their international debut for a measly fee of £4.7m?
Injuries played their part – both to his shoulder and hernia – so too did a subsequent loss of form. Bayindir continued to be a mainstay in Fenerbahce’s side but this a fanbase tired of waiting having last lifted the Turkish league title back in 2014.
Bayindir’s form also saw him struggle to pin down a regular starting berth in the national squad and when the opportunity arrived for the now 25-year-old to move to the Premier League, albeit as a number two, it was a move thought best for both parties.
At United, Bayindir has been made to wait.
‘Altay is getting used to the Premier League, which is tough when you’re coming from Turkey,’ Ten Hag said last November. ‘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.’
But he has put that time to good use. He has reportedly brought in a personal dietician and performance coach to improve on his strength while working to become fluent in English and better communicate with his teammates.
Bayindir may not have expected his maiden appearance for the Red Devils to come at Rodney Parade, the 8,700-seater stadium of League Two Newport County but he must be ready to take his opportunity.
He could go on to start Premier League games against Wolves and West Ham should Onana’s Cameroon reach the AFCON quarter-finals. In that case, Bayindir will then have a real opportunity to stake his claim.