Saturday 20 October 2018

Paul Pogba stars as Manchester United get Champions League campaign off to winning start

Young Boys 0 Manchester United 3

Manchester United's Paul Pogba celebrates with Fred, Anthony Martial and Diogo Dalot after scoring their second goal
Manchester United's Paul Pogba celebrates with Fred, Anthony Martial and Diogo Dalot after scoring their second goal

Simon Peach

Paul Pogba inspired Manchester United to a winning start to their Champions League campaign as Jose Mourinho's men overcame Young Boys and their potentially problematic plastic pitch.

With tough assignments against Valencia and Juventus to come, United knew just how important it would be to get three points in their Group H opener on the Stade de Suisse's synthetic surface.

United were not at their best in Bern but emerged victorious from this tricky encounter, with Pogba following his classy opener with a superb spot-kick and assist for Anthony Martial in the 3-0 win.

It was a comprehensive, if not always convincing, start to their Champions League campaign - and all the more satisfying as Mourinho's players appeared to avoid injury on the Swiss champions' controversial surface.

Young Boys started the brighter but United's quality eventually told, with Marcus Rashford's effort off the post a warning sign that was followed by Pogba's moment of class.

Wearing the captain's armband in place of Antonio Valencia - absent due to concerns over the pitch - the United midfielder followed a lovely touch with an unerring finish into the top left-hand corner.

Pogba then netted from the post after impressive Young Boys right-back Kevin Mbabu was harshly adjudged to have handled Luke Shaw's cross, with Martial's first goal in 242 days adding gloss midway through the second half.

It was comfortable in the end - but United had started Wednesday's match shakily.

While summer Diogo Dalot looked sharp on his debut, opposing right-back Mbabu was also impressing and his fine cross was nodded just wide by veteran striker Guillaume Hoarau in the eighth minute.

Young Boys' intensity and balls into the box were causing United problems, while David De Gea had to be alert when Mohamed Ali Camara tried his luck from long range.

Romelu Lukaku struck into the side-netting at the other end and Rashford flicked Shaw's driven cross onto the post, but the hosts were on top and appeared most likely to score.

Christian Fassnacht saw a shot blocked by Victor Lindelof having embarrassed debutant Dalot, with the Young Boys midfielder then denied by De Gea shortly after - let-offs which allowed United to break the deadlock.

Composed United build-up led to Pogba passing to Fred, with Camara's tackle on the Brazilian unwittingly teeing up the United captain. An elegant flick took the World Cup winner away from from the Young Boys defender and allowed him to unleashed an unstoppable strike into the top left-hand corner.

It was a moment of quality that injected new life into United, who were gifted the chance to extend their lead as referee Deniz Aytekin harshly adjudged Mbabu to have handled Shaw's first-time cross.

Having provided the exceptional crossfield ball to the left-back, Pogba took the resulting penalty and followed a staggered run-up with a thumping strike.

Whistles greeted the half-time whistle as the officials became aware of their popularity in Bern, where early appeals for handball against Chris Smalling early in the second half were ignored.

Roger Assale tried to pull the home side back into the match but United were in control and put the game out of sight with a fine counter-attack.

Pogba drove forwards from just inside the United half and smartly played wide to Martial, whose shot deflected in off Camara in the 66th minute.

Yet the noise from impressive home support only increased after the third goal, with substitute Michel Aebischer going close before Camara lost Marouane Fellaini from a corner and hit the post.

United substitute Juan Mata fired narrowly wide from Shaw's latest cross late on, but that would be it as Lukaku's stoppage-time attempt was ruled out for offside.

Press Association

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