Manchester United top group thanks to Romelu Lukaku and Marcus Rashford
Champions League Group A, Old Trafford - Manchester United 2 (Lukaku 64', Rashford 66') CSKA Moscow (Vitinho 45')
Some lovely football and two lovely goals saw Manchester United come back from a goal down to beat CSKA Moscow and qualify for the last 16 of this season's Champions League as group winners. They are not yet good enough to win the competition, but if they can keep their best players fit, they will be a difficult night for any side left in it.
United started the game well and had several opportunities to go ahead; Marcus Rashford was foiled by the post when he ought really to have scored, and Igor Akinfeev was excellent in the CSKA goal. Then, just before half-time, the Muscovites went ahead, Vitinho poking home off Alan Dzagoev - who looked offisde, except that Daley Blind had slid over the by-line, Daley Blind and was therefore playing him on. Uefa, in their infinite wisdom, gave the strike to Vitinho.
In the second half, United stepped up their pace a notch higher, led by the effervescent Paul Pogba - how they must wish he had not accidentally crushed Hector Bellerin's calf - and scored twice in two minutes through Romelu Lukaku and Marcus Rashford, both of whom had fine nights and both of whom needed a goal.
That was enough for United, and with Luke Shaw also playing superbly in his first start of the season, United approach the Manchester derby beautifully grooved, a side beginning to assert its identity. But they will find Manchester City an entirely different proposition.
Are United now a three at the back team? With top spot in the group near enough assured, Jose Mourinho could have sent his players out in whatever formation he fancied. But the 3-5-2, or the 3-4-3 they played tonight, has seen them look more dangerous than at any time since Alex Ferguson left, so the likelihood is that he wants to inculcate the system into his players at every opportunity. For the moment, it is working.
MAN OF THE MATCH
Marcus Rashford (Manchester United) An electrifying display. He ought to have scored early on, but terrorised his marker with a display of intelligent, tricky, extremely fast running, superb close control, accurate shooting and, eventually, a fine finish.
Manchester United are unbeaten in 40 home games, the longest run in their history.
Paul Pogba has supplied six assists in 12 games this season, relative to six in 51 last season.
4’ - And there's Lukaku again! He gathers possession deep and central, looks up, and slides a lovely ball into Rashford's path, putting him on goal! Rashford looks up and whips a left-footed finish across Akinfeev, but doesn't connect quite true, and the ball skips into the post! Nine without a goal for him.
15’ - Lovely from Mata, appearing wide on the left and extending a leg to cushion a long pass, Berbatov-style. He then feeds the ball into the box for Rashford, who opens his body and shoots early with his instep, across Akinfeev, who does very well to get down and palm the ball away. Nice tackle all round.
19’ - United are stepping it up now after allowing CSKA plenty of time on the ball to begin with. They've punned them back for a while now and Rashford absolutely pastes Berezutski down the left before United work it back to the right. Valencia's cross then comes over and Shaw, who looks really good at wing-back, volleys hard into the ground and again Akinfeev shoves it out; Lukaku tries to force home from close range via scissors-kick, but again Akinfeev saves. United are surely going to score presently.
45’ - GOAL! Manchester United 0-1 CSKA Moscow ( Dzagoev) This is really nice from CSKA, but useless officiating. Golovin sends Fernandes away down the right and he cuts back. Chalov tries to reach it, can't, and Vitinho pokes goalwards, the ball hitting Dzagoev on its way in; Dzagoev was in the middle of the box and offside. The ensuing row concerns whether the ball hit him, but it's nonsense; he was stood in the middle of the six-yard box, how is that not offside in any circumstance?! STOP PRESS: Daley Blind slid off the pitch so was perhaps playing him on, so the question is now whether or not he could've got back on the pitch; I'd say not.
54’ - Pogba has played well in flashes tonight, but needs to take control of things. In the meantime Shaw, who's been great, wins United a corner following a lovely piece of skill. Blind wastes another corner, but it's only cleared as far as Shaw, who coaxes a lovely clip over the top to Mata, who bangs over a cross ... which Smalling can only head wide. In fairness, the ball was travelling.
64’ - GOAL! Manchester United 1-1 CSKA Moscow 1 (Lukaku) This is a really nice goal, Pogba sitting in space to the left before clipping a gorgeous pass over the top, looking for Lukaku, who does a great job holding off Vasin to poke home. He's been good tonight, but he needed that.
66’ - GOAL! Manchester United 2-1 CSKA Moscow (Rashford) And this is another goodun! Lindelof hits it long and Rashford picks it up, poking towards Mata, alongside him, who lifts a terrific pass back over the top and into stride. Rashford lets it bounce, then bangs an assured finish across Akinfeev for his first goal in time.
84’ - United have eased off and CSKA seek an equaliser, Dzagoev sent sneaking through the middle by Kuchaev and doing Romero with the eyes, only to drive against his feet.