Saturday 18 November 2017

Lukaku nets first Champions League goal as Man United dominate Basel

Man United 3 Basel 0

Romelu Lukaku of Manchester United celebrates
Romelu Lukaku of Manchester United celebrates

Simon Peach

Manchester United eased back into Champions League life as Marouane Fellaini, Romelu Lukaku and Marcus Rashford put Basel to the sword.

Last season was just the second time in 22 years that the three-time European champions were without a place at the continent's top table, but May's Europa League triumph brought a much-needed return.

United's first Champions League match in 644 days ended in a straightforward Old Trafford victory as substitute Fellaini, in-form Lukaku and substitute Rashford kicked off Group A with a 3-0 win against Basle.

The only negative on the Reds' return to what manager Jose Mourinho calls their "natural habitat" was the injury to Paul Pogba, who left clutching his hamstring 19 minutes into his first game leading the side out as captain.

Fellaini came on for the Frenchman and quickly underlined just why Mourinho leans on him so heavily, heading the hosts into a deserved lead during a first half that saw Henrikh Mkhitaryan hit the post.

Basel were unbeaten on their two previous visits to Old Trafford but the Swiss champions never looked like getting anything out of Tuesday's encounter.

Lukaku's first goal in the Champions League group stage early in the second half compounded matters for the visitors, who were unable to prevent substitute Rashford netting his first goal in the competition late on.

Things could have been different had Raphael Wicky's side started with any of the intensity shown by their fans, who quickly made themselves heard at Old Trafford - although their use of flares could lead to UEFA action.

Manuel Akanji blocked a Lukaku shot inside 70 seconds as United flew out of the blocks, moving the ball out of defence well and through midfield with guile.

Mkhitaryan headed over after neat play by Anthony Martial and Juan Mata before Lukaku got another shot on the Basle goal as United pushed for the opener.

During that period of dominance, an innocuous passage of play ended Pogba's night.

Going into a challenge with Mohamed Elyounoussi, the skipper pulled up holding his hamstring and had to be replaced by Fellaini after several minutes of treatment.

Pogba headed straight down the tunnel after his 19th-minute substitution - a setback that did not throw United off kilter.

Within minutes Lukaku's squared ball was met by a first-time Mkhitaryan shot, taken onto the post by the faintest touch by Basle goalkeeper Tomas Vaclik before the follow-up was blocked.

A snatched Luca Zuffi attempt was the best the visitors could muster before United's pressure told in the 35th minute, thanks in no small part to Ashley Young's exceptional work.

Playing for the first time since being injured in May, a fine turn on the right flank was followed by an equally impressive cross that was met six yards out by Fellaini's head.

A tame nodded effort from unmarked Elyounoussi was the best Basle could respond with before half-time, from which Martial returned by cutting in from the left and testing Vaclik at his near post.

The resulting corner brought United's second goal as Daley Blind followed a one-two with a driven cross into the box, where Lukaku easily outjumped the visitors' defence to power home a header.

The Belgian saw a near-post attempt denied as he looked to add a quick-fire second, with Martial and Young also looking to extend the hosts' lead.

Basle were, though, finding more time on the ball and Victor Lindelof, looking relatively solid on his first Old Trafford start, breathed a sigh of relief when turned by Elyounoussi. Slipping in the rain, he avoided giving away a penalty before the ever-impressive David De Gea saved the shot.

Rashford was brought on as United flexed their attacking muscle and by the 84th minute he had his first Champions League goal.

The impressive Fellaini ran behind and cut back a pass that, via a deflection, came to the 19-year-old, who made no mistake as he fired home United's third.

Press Association

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