Manchester United manager Jose Mourinho believes he has now arrested the decline in the club’s Champions League away form.
The 4-1 win over CSKA Moscow in Russia gave his side a three-point advantage at the top of Group A after only two games and qualification for the knock-out stage should be a mere formality considering the poor quality of their opponents.
Basel, who lost 3-0 at Old Trafford earlier this month, beat Benfica 5-0 while Mourinho’s pre-match assessment that CSKA’s current team were the best he had faced in all his visits with Real Madrid, Inter Milan and Chelsea looked generous at best.
Having won the Europa League last season the Portuguese has United back on an upward curve in continental competition after their standing went into a downward spiral under Alex Ferguson’s successor David Moyes and his replacement Louis van Gaal.
Having a dig
Mourinho may have been having a dig at the Dutchman in particular when he pointed out how things had turned under his guidance after four defeats and just one win in their last eight Champions League games away from Old Trafford.
“Before results away from home in the Champions League were not the best,” he said. “After one season outside (the competition) we come back and we come back in strongly with a strong performance away.
“Did the players play well? Of course they did. I think all of them for an hour had a very good performance.
“It was a strong performance, a strong start with great personality and no-one is speaking about the players who couldn’t play. I am really happy with the performance.
“I came here and faced very good teams (in the past) but I think this was the strongest performance.
“With Real Madrid we came in the knockout phase and we came to play for a specific result.
“Three-nil at half-time is unexpected. We had the game in our hands and then it was just control so it was really good.”
On his return to Manchester Mourinho has to assess his options for tomorrow’s 3pm kick-off at home to Crystal Palace having travelled to Moscow without seven senior players, including the likes of Paul Pogba, Michael Carrick, Marouane Fellaini, Phil Jones and Antonio Valencia.
It is a chance to extend their unbeaten Premier League record to seven matches and take the outright lead at the top of the table as neighbours Manchester City face a much more difficult task against defending champions Chelsea.
“We play Saturday three o’clock against a fresh team and we have to play after this match,” he added.
“We have to keep our feet on the ground, stay humble and follow our direction because we are having a very good start to the season.”
Manchester United’s utility man Ashley Young insists there will be no targeting of one specific competition this season as they have their sights set on winning everything they can.
Towards the end of the previous campaign Mourinho, knowing his side were not going to qualify for the Champions League via a top-four place, put all his priorities into the Europa League.
It paid off handsomely with victory over Ajax in the final securing a return to Europe’s top table. Having also won the League Cup last season Young believes they have to realistically consider the prospect of challenging in all competitions, especially after the start they have got off to in the Premier League with 16 points from a possible 18 to be joint top with neighbours Manchester City.
“Everyone wants to win every competition we are in,” said Young, who played wing-back and captained the side in their 4-1 Champions League win over CSKA Moscow in Russia on Wednesday.
“There’s not a competition that we are going to prioritise. We want to go at it on all fronts, whether that be in Europe or domestically.
“We were delighted to win what we did last season but if we can add the Premier League, the League Cup again or the FA Cup, or Champions League then of course you play in these big competitions to go and win them.
“That is exactly what we are looking to do and I think we’ve got the squad to do it.”
Young may well be playing for his future as his contract expires in the summer but he insists he is only focused on team goals during the final eight months of his deal.
He believes if he does that then the rewards will come.
“I’m not here to talk about my contract,” he added. “Of course it is exciting times here and I want to be part of the success.
“As a footballer you want to win trophies and be part of a successful team and for me Manchester United is that club.
“The most successful club in England and hopefully we can add to the trophies we won last season and hopefully win some more.
“I feel really good. Obviously getting the armband is a proud moment to captain Manchester United.
“It is an honour for me. It shows the manager has trust in me and I’ve got to repay him and I think I’ve been doing that in the games I’ve played.”