Manchester United reached the UEFA Champions League Round of 16 as they came from behind to beat CSKA Moscow 2-1 at Old Trafford on Tuesday
The hosts dominated the proceedings for large parts of the first half, with Marcus Rashford and Luke Shaw, making his first start of the season, coming the closest to breaking the deadlock. But, the visitors did not shy away from taking the game to Manchester United, grabbing a few chances as well.
Viktor Goncharenko’s men then went on to grab a shock lead, on the stroke of half-time, albeit in a slightly controversial manner as Vitinho converted from Mario Fernandes’ cross off Alan Dzagoev’s back. The Russian attacker had appeared to be offside, but Daley Blind, who was off the field had played him onside.
Post the break, Manchester United’s resolve to get a goal only got stronger, with the hosts grabbing all of the clear cut opportunities. They finally levelled things up in the 65th minute through Romelu Lukaku, who was found by Paul Pogba through a delicate chipped pass and made no mistake to score past Igor Akinfeev.
FT: #MUFC 2 CSKA Moscow 1.
— Manchester United (@ManUtd) December 5, 2017
66 seconds later, the comeback was complete as Marcus Rashford latched on to Juan Mata’s perfectly weighted pass over the top to score his first goal in nine games. The result meant Manchester United continued their unbeaten home run, while clinching top spot in Group A, and The Hard Tackle now runs the rule over Jose Mourinho’s men.
Sergio Romero: 7/10
Replacing David De Gea between the sticks to give him some well deserved rest, Romero deputised in goal superbly. While he did concede a goal, there was very little he could have done about the well placed shot, and he was otherwise solid, with a late save from Alan Dzagoev’s shot saving all three points for his side.
Victor Lindelof: 7/10
The purple patch of form continued for Lindelof on Tuesday, as he produced another solid performance at the heart of defence. Showcasing a tremendous reading of the ball and his undoubted abilities on the ball, there was very little troubling him on the night. The Swede is slowly but surely on the ascendancy at Old Trafford.
Chris Smalling: 7/10
Another player who was largely untroubled on the night, Smalling continued to be the vocal leader in Manchester United’s back-three on the night. He could have done better in the buildup to CSKA’s goal though, as he played Mario Fernandes onside before Vitinho converted.
— Chris Smalling (@ChrisSmalling) December 5, 2017
On the other end of the pitch, he could have – and perhaps should have – put his name on the score sheet, before he made a meal of Juan Mata’s cross in the second half. An important figure heading into the Manchester Derby on Sunday.
Daley Blind: 6/10
Handed a rare start by Jose Mourinho on the night, Daley Blind wasn’t entire convincing on the left side of the Manchester United back-three. While he did read the game well and linked up well with Luke Shaw, the Dutchman was caught out of position on a few occasions. Needs to do something spectacular to become a first-choice option.
Antonio Valencia: 6.5/10
A similar trend, as large parts of the campaign thus far, ensued for Valencia, who had a quiet evening at the back, instead making much of his impact in the final third. The Manchester United skipper charged up the right flank with elan and looked like a threat for the most part, but his crosses still need some work.
Paul Pogba: 8/10
— Paul Pogba Stuff 🤙 (@PogbaStuff_) December 5, 2017
The Manchester United talisman seemed unperturbed by his dismissal on the weekend, moving on from the bitter disappointment by turning in another emphatic performance on Tuesday. Orchestrating play from midfield, the Frenchman was at his masterful best as he ensured his side won the midfield battle.
He even got a well deserved assist to cap off a wonderful performance, chipping in a superb pass towards Romelu Lukaku, who made no mistake in grabbing the equaliser. He is sure to be sorely missed by Jose Mourinho & co. on Sunday, when Manchester City come visiting for the biggest game of the season.
Ander Herrera: 7/10
Stepping in for an overworked and injured Nemanja Matic at the heart of midfield, Herrera did his job diligently, neutralising most of the threat being created by the CSKA attack with smart interceptions and well-timed tackles.
He linked up well with Pogba as well, but did little going forward otherwise. Expected to start on Sunday, he will be a key player in the French powerhouse’s absence.
Luke Shaw: 8/10
A name whose announcement on the team sheet would have delighted many a Manchester United fans, Shaw was irrepressible in what was his first start of the season. The match was also his 50th for the club, and Shaw looked like he had a point to prove on the momentous occasion.
Mourinho: “A very positive performance, especially with the balls going forward. Creating a lot, great intensity in his game. Shaw is going to get more chances.” pic.twitter.com/ygojYICk4f
— Rahul Singh (@forevruntd) December 6, 2017
The youngster charged up and down the left flank with purpose, defending smartly while adding to the numbers in the final third. He could have had a goal for himself on the night as well, but for Akinfeev. Mourinho seemed quite impressed with his performance too, and this might just be the night when he resurrected his Manchester United career.
Juan Mata: 7/10
After a couple of games on the bench, Mata got another opportunity to start in his preferred number ten role, and this was finally the kind of outing that is expected out of him. Clever passing, expert linking up and direct running was the name of the game for the Spaniard, who looked nearer to his best levels.
He also had an assist to show for his efforts by the end of the night, smartly lofting the ball to set Marcus Rashford up for the winner, but he could have had two more assists if not for the youngster and Chris Smalling’s poor shots.
Marcus Rashford: 8/10
Another player who returned to the starting lineup after a short hiatus, Marcus Rashford looked full of energy on the night, driving on from the left wing with a lot of purpose, giving Vasili Berezutski a hard time all through the game.
Rashford’s stats this season:
1,221 mins played
87 mins per goal / assist
— Statman Dave (@StatmanDave) December 5, 2017
His dangerous runs should have yielded more goals than the winner, which was smartly finished. But, finishing remains one aspect of the youngster’s game that requires major improvements.
Romelu Lukaku: 8/10
The confidence seems to be coming back for Lukaku, who worked his socks off on Tuesday night for the hosts. Not only did he grab the goal that set in motion Manchester United’s comeback, but the Belgian striker also stretched the CSKA defence with his ever improving hold up play and runs on the flanks.
He also gave the other Manchester United attackers some lessons in crossing, and it looks like the return of Zlatan Ibrahimovic has been just what he needed. Ahead of the Manchester Derby, this goal would spur Lukaku on for better things.
Scott McTominay: 6/10
On for the final 20 minutes, the young Scot got some valuable minutes to build up some confidence, and apart from a poor challenge early into his stint, he was quite composed, much to Mourinho’s liking.
Axel Tuanzebe: 6/10
Another young player who Mourinho was happy to hand a cameo, Tuanzebe was confident and comfortable on the right side of defence, and would now be looking forward to some more minutes soon.
Anthony Martial: N/A
Came on late into the game, he made a few good runs, but had little time to make an impact.