Manchester United marked the clubs return to the Champions League with a dominant 3-0 victory vs FC Basel at Old Trafford.
It was the first Champions League match for Manchester United in a year and a half. José Mourinho has won the competition twice before, and fans will hope the Portuguese manager rekindles his cup magic with United.
Mourinho was forced to rotate his starting XI, as starters Jones and Bailly were both suspended. This gave a chance to Lindelof, the summer signing who has yet to feature in the Premier League. He was paired with Smalling, a leader with big match experience. Ashley Young also came into the side, replacing Valencia who had played every minute so far this season. Further up the pitch, Mourinho opted for Martial ahead of Rashford, as Basel was expected to sit back and limit space in behind.
United started lively. Micky and Lukaku had chances in quick succession, but neither could find the net.
Pogba began to cramp up, which was a very worrisome sight for United fans. He was forced to come off, replaced by Fellaini. It was especially sad to see Pogba come off, as he was given the captain’s armband for the match.
United had the first chance of the game, and it should’ve been the first goal. Lukaku beat his man out wide, and fizzed a ball on the ground in front of goal. It fell to Mkhitaryan, who hit the post from 2 yards out. The Armenian took his eye off the ball at the wrong moment, and didn’t get the connection he wanted.
Basel then grew more into the match, and had a fantastic chance to take a shock lead. A ball bounced nicely to Zufi, but the Basel man hit it far wide.
Basel would very quickly rue the missed chance. Young received the ball out wide, and dribbled past his man. He then dinked in a perfect cross back post to Fellaini, who headed it home with ease. Just like that, it was 1-0 to United.
Basel had a another chance soon after to tie the game, with a free header from a free kick at the back post going right into De Geas hands. It would’ve been especially crucial, as the opportunity came right before halftime.
United grabbed a vital second goal soon after the 2nd half started. A short corner was worked to Blind out wide, and he whipped in a delectable cross to the back post. Lukaku jumped highest, and headed it into the back of the net.
De Gea then reminded everyone he is the best goalkeeper in the world. A shot from Basel was hit high to the near post, but Dave got a hand up to punch it away.
United continued to pile on the pressure. Martial met a low cross, but couldn’t get his shot on target. Young then danced around multiple Basel defenders, but his shot was saved well by the keeper.
Lingard then came on for Martial to help hold the lead. Rashford came on to make his Champions League debut, replacing a tired Mata.
Rashford marked his CL debut with a goal, killing off the match. A Fellaini cross was missed by Micky, but it fell to Rashford at the back post. The youngster hit it into the ground, but it flew over the Basel keeper into the net.
From that point until the final whistle, United held onto the ball and killed the game off. The 3-0 scoreline was a fair reflection on how much better United were on the day.
Manchester United host Everton on Sunday, September 17th.