Saturday 17 March 2018

Magnificent Man Utd look ready to dine at top European table again

Manchester United's Romelu Lukaku. Photo: PA
Manchester United's Romelu Lukaku. Photo: PA

Tim Rich

It was a result and a performance that would have resonated across Europe.

For more than six years Manchester United were either bit-part players in the Champions League or they were absent from Europe's elite competition.

It was not just that they won 4-1 in Moscow; it was the way in which they did it - epitomised by the demeanour of CSKA manager Viktor Goncharenko, who confessed he felt "destroyed" by the movement and the pace of Anthony Martial, Henrikh Mkhitaryan and Romelu Lukaku.

All of the plans he had made had been ruined, not just by the errors committed by CSKA Moscow's ageing defence, but by the sheer speed of United's play.

There should, however, be a couple of warnings amid all the superlatives.

The back three of Chris Smalling, Eric Bailly and Victor Lindelof were penetrated almost as easily as CSKA's defence and they will face better teams in the new year.

You could also point out that the last time Manchester United played this well away from home in the Champions League was under David Moyes in a game that saw them crush Bayer Leverkusen 5-0 in November 2013.

On arriving home, United drew at Tottenham, lost at home to Everton and then presented Newcastle with their first win at Old Trafford since 1972.

However, there is rather more depth and stability to Jose Mourinho's squad.

Paul Pogba, Phil Jones and probably Marouane Fellaini will miss tomorrow's game against Crystal Palace, but they will still be confident of winning comfortably.

"We have to keep this momentum going," said Ashley Young, who captained United in Moscow. "When you are playing with confidence throughout the team, it's fantastic and, when you have boys like Marcus Rashford and Jesse Lingard coming off the bench, the squad looks very healthy.

"You see it at training - it's fast, it's aggressive. Everyone has a winning mentality and that is what we are taking into games."

Young arrived from Aston Villa in 2011 as a winger and, every summer since, his departure has been predicted, always wrongly.

"It is exciting times here and I want to be part of that success," he said. (© Independent News Service)

Irish Independent

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