| New Delhi
| September 13, 2017 9:46 am
Manchester United midfielder Marouane Fellaini (Photo: AFP)
Manchester United’s return to Champions League football proved to be a winning one as the Red Devils swept aside Basel 3-0 in their Group A opener, but the win came at a cost for star midfielder Paul Pogba who suffered an injury and was forced off early on.
The Frenchman, captaining United for the first time in his career, pulled his hamstring in the 17th minute and was replaced by Marouane Fellaini but the Red Devils’ rhythm wasn’t disrupted, much to the relief of the United faithful.
As expected, the Premier League leaders dominated proceedings and had Henrikh Mkhitaryan not forgotten to bring his scoring boots, probably would have put six or more past their Swiss opponents.
The Armenian, who has begun the season on a brilliant note with five assists but crucially is yet to open his account, missed a simple header in the 13th minute after a well-worked move from the home side saw Juan Mata set him up.
Romelu Lukaku, United’s top-scorer this season, tested Basel keeper Tomas Vaclick with a shot from just outside the box but his effort was too straight to trouble the Czech custodian.
United continued to press and eventually found the breakthrough via their wrecking-ball aka Marouane Fellaini. Ashley Young, making his first start of the season after a lengthy injury absence, sent in an inviting cross which his Belgian teammate duly nodded in 10 minutes from half-time.
At the interval, United held a slender lead which, with Basel’s threat on the counter, could evaporate quickly and they knew it as they began the second-half as they ended the first, pressing high up the pitch and looking to score as many as they could.
Lukaku doubled their lead after Daley Blind swung in a cross from the left and the Belgian rose highest to head home in the 53rd minute.
United were lucky not to concede when Mohamed Elyounoussi turned Victor Lindelof inside the box and sent in a fierce shot from close range but David de Gea as usual, was at hand to make a superb save.
Jose Mourinho sent on Jesse Lingard and Marcus Rashford to inject some speed into their attack and get another goal which would pad their goal difference and the latter responded with a tap-in six minutes from time.
Fellaini was in the thick of action once again, sending in a low cross from the byline which evaded but Mkhitaryan but not Rashford.
In the other Group A game of the night, CSKA Moscow beat Benfica 2-1 away to cause an upset but United top the group with their superior goal difference and will look to continue winning when they face Everton on Sunday in the Premier League.
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