Manchester United travelled to Russia’s capital to face CSKA Moscow. The Reds would be playing in a city that holds many memories for the club and would no doubt be hoping to create more happy memories, securing another three points in the process.
United’s European campaign started with a comfortable 3-0 win over Swiss champions, FC Basel at Old Trafford a fortnight ago and Mourinho’s men will want to continue their excellent start to the season.
The Boss opted to change up the starting eleven, as well as the formation compared to the usual 4-2-3-1 or 4-3-3. Blind, Lindelof and Smalling all returned to the side in defence, alongside Eric Bailly and Ashley Young who retained their place from the weekend’s game at Southampton. Mourinho’s choice of defensive personnel made it clear, he was going for a more versatile 3-4-3, with players that can evolve and move into other positions if need be.
The midfield was also mildly dissimilar to the one we seen at the beginning of the season with Nemanja Matic starting, who has became a mainstay in the United team so far this season, partnered with Ander Herrera. Young and Blind were the duo selected to operate as wing backs on either flank.
We also seen a refreshed front three with Anthony Martial coming into the forward line to play with Henrikh Mkhitaryan and Belgian talisman, Romelu Lukaku. All three have had a fine start to the season and will inevitably be aiming to continue their form against CSKA.
Goals Come Early
Four minutes into the game and United took the lead, through none other than Romelu Lukaku, who has recently been the subject of much debate over a song about him that is rightly deemed offensive and racially stereotypical. The man has done himself no harm, deflecting the attention away from the drama and back to his unbelievable goal-scoring ability.
The former Everton striker’s goal came from an exemplary floated ball in from Martial, which allowed the on-form number nine to get up and put the ball past Russian national team captain, Igor Akinfeev. Manchester United doubled their lead shortly after when Mkhitaryan was brought down by a rather poor tackle from CSKA wing back, Georgi Shchennikov and won United a penalty. Martial stepped up and put the keeper the wrong way, in his usual ‘cool as you like’ manner.
The sensational start continued with a third goal for United and a second for Lukaku. The Lukaku-Martial combination was prominent again, as the 21 year-old whipped in another dangerous cross, which Berezutski failed to clear when he completely missed the ball, allowing United’s most expensive player of the summer to score his tenth goal in nine games.
However, despite all the goals going in at one end, David De Gea was also forced into action a few times. The best of the lot came from an effort from Vitinho, who hit a shot from the edge of the box which looked certain to be going in, until the Spaniard leapt up and got a hand to the ball to tip it over the bar.
This was probably the perfect opening half for Manchester United away in Russia which was expected to be a tough fixture, nonetheless United made it look easy and rolled over CSKA Moscow. The Russian side may have been shocking at times defensively but caused their fair share of problems for the Red Devils’s defense, yet it was the latter who troubled more and took their chances.
The Second Coming
The fourth goal came in the 57th minute after yet another astonishing run which resulted in his shot being saved, only Mkhitaryan to follow up and strike the ball home. This Jose Mourinho’s side 4-0 up and sailing, allowing the Gaffer to make his changes. Lingard came on for Mkhitaryan, Darmian replaced Young and Rashford entered the fray in place of a hobbling, Martial.
CSKA Moscow grabbed a late consolation through 19 year-old, Konstantin Kuchaev who finished well, after a ball over the top fell to the youngster who slotted the ball through the legs of David De Gea, who was great across the course of the ninety minutes overall.
United’s Star Men Step Up!
Manchester United were near-perfect, with more or less all of the game’s best moments seeming to feature Anthony Martial. The boy from the suburbs of Southern France was spectacular from the first minute to the last, involved in almost every attack his side has in the 72 minutes he played.
Martial was key to all the goals United scored; assisting two, scoring one and going on a jinking run through the Moscow defence before firing shot that was saved and fell to Mkhitaryan to fire in. He completed six dribbles, created five chances, in addition to the contributions mentioned above.
The midfield duo was also crucial to the result United earned. Herrera and Matic controlled the game and simply dominated the midfield. The pair retained the ball efficiently whenever United lost it and kept it effectively whenever they were in possession.
Matic moved the ball with beautiful accuracy and purpose, while Ander Herrera appeared to have regained his sharpness, moving the ball with pace and playing it through to the attackers, allowing them to strut their stuff.
Another obvious pick who impressed many was Romelu Lukaku, who was as mentioned before already in great form and continued it in this game, scoring after four minutes. He then bagged a second after CSKA’s defence faltered and he pounced to tap the ball home.
The Antwerp-born forward bagged his ninth and tenth goal in nine games. This statistic is simply astounding considering United legend, Sir Bobby Charlton bagged nine goals in his first nine games.
Lukaku looks to be in the form of his life, whilst not only being amongst the goals but also appears to be pivotal in link up play. He has also surprised a few with his work rate and his tireless running upfront when closing down, which is a nice change for United fans after a season of Zlatan Ibrahimovic.
David De Gea was also in tip-top form, making some eye-brow raising saves which most would not expect him to make. Despite conceding the late goal, the Spaniard should be void of criticism after the saves he has made in recent games. It is clear he wants the title of best goalkeeper in the world and will certainly want to be in with a shout for the golden glove at the end of the Premier League season.
What Does This Mean For United Now?
Manchester United can celebrate another great performance despite leaking in the dying moments. They now have six out of six points, scoring seven in the process and conceding only one. Mourinho will be subtly satisfied despite putting on a dim facade to the public. However, he will have spotted United’s late defensive vulnerability and will want to patch that up as soon as possible.
Reds around the world will be delighted with the form shown by their side, scoring 29 goals in 10 games overall this season which compared to last season is breathtaking progress. It took MUFC 19 games last season to score the same amount. The progress is there for all to see, but will it be enough to earn United a place in the latter stages of the Champions League? The upcoming games will tell us more…
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