Manchester United continued their wonderful start to the season with a dominant 4-0 win away to CSKA Moscow in the Champions League. The result sent United to the top of Group A with 6 points. Basel and CSKA ended the second round of fixtures tied with 3 points each. Benfica, who have lost to CSKA and Basel, are bottom with 0 points.
United flew to Russia in high spirits, but understood how tricky of a fixture this could be. Long travel, cold weather, and a rabid fanbase make it tough to get a result away to Moscow. Most of the United squad have first hand experience, when they drew 1-1 two seasons ago.
Mourinho had to make changes to the standard lineup, as Pogba, Fellaini, and Jones were unavailable for selection. He opted for a back 3 defensively, featuring Lindelof, Bailly, and Smalling. Blind and Young were either side at the wing-back positions, while Matic paired up with Herrera in the centre of the midfield. Mourinho gave Martial the start, rewarding him for his stellar form.
United had the perfect start to the match, grabbing an early goal and silencing the Moscow fans. Martial picked up the ball out wide, and whipped in a cross to the back post. Lukaku outmuscled his marker, and headed it past Akinfeev. It was his 9th goal in his 9th match for United, maintaining his wonderful start to life in Manchester.
United kept on the pressure, and were awarded for their efforts. Mkhitaryan dribbled down the line, but was taken down by a CSKA defender in the box. It was a definite penalty, and the referee made the right call. Up stepped Martial, and the Frenchman calmly sent the CSKA keeper the wrong way, making it 2-0.
Mourinho and his men could have sat back, but Manchester continued on in search of a killer goal. They found it before the half hour mark. A Martial cross was poorly dealt with by the CSKA defence. The ball found it’s way to Lukaku at the back post, and the Belgian made no mistake from close range to make it 10 in 9 in all competitions.
David De Gea then reminded everyone that he is the best goalkeeper in the world. Golovin, the highly rated CSKA youngster, carved out a chance at the top of the penalty area. He hit it hard and wide, but his shot was tipped over the crossbar by De Gea, who got his left hand onto it.
Manchester maintained possession until half-time, preventing CSKA from having any hope of a comeback.
United added another soon after the halftime break. Martial was put through on goal, but his attempt was saved by Akinfeev. The Russian keeper let the rebound loose, and Mkhitaryan pounced on it, making it 4-0. It was a goal that Micky deserved, as he controlled the tempo of the match throughout.
Mkhitaryan was then taken off for Lingard after the goal, and Lingard almost scored seconds after coming on. Martial played him through the middle, but the shot was dealt with well by Akinfeev.
Ashley Young, who has been phenomenal since returning to the starting XI, was given the rest of the night off to keep him rested for the weekend. Darmian came on to replace him.
In a worrying sight for United fans, Martial signaled to the bench that he needed to be subbed off. Marcus Rashford came on for the Frenchman, who had a slight limp to his step as he left the field.
A long ball from Herrera put Darmian through on goal, who made a superb run in behind the CSKA defence. The defender controlled it well, but his shot was saved by Akinfeev. The Russian international goalkeeper may have given up 4 goals, but he still made plenty of key saves, keeping the scoreline somewhat respectable.
Just like in United’s Carabao Cup match vs Burton, United gave up a late goal to prevent a potential clean sheet. Kuchaev, another promising CSKA youngster, settled a pass brilliantly, and put the ball through the legs of De Gea to make it 4-1. It was a nice sight to see the CSKA fans have something to celebrate after a long night for them, but Mourinho will not be happy that his defence missed out on another clean sheet.
CSKA created some half chances soon after, but they were all dealt with easily by De Gea. The referee then blew for full time, ending the match at 4-1. It was another solid performance by the Red Devils, killing off the game early in a tough environment. However, some will still be disappointed that United lost focus at the end, and lost the clean sheet as a result.
Manchester United host Crystal Palace in the Premier League on Saturday, which is the last match for the club before the international break.