match reviews

What we learned from UCL Matchday 2 – CSKA Moscow 1 Manchester United 4

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United’s impressive return to Europe’s top competition continued with a convincing performance away to Russia on Matchday 2; here are some of the main talking points from the game

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United dominant

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Jose’s men put in a disciplined team performance

The Red Devils had scored four goals in four of their last nine appearances (including the Super Cup loss to Madrid), but on many of those occasions the scoreline flattered the performance. Not against CSKA, United were rampant in attack and controlled the game comfortably. On the contrary, Jose’s men probably should have scored more goals, but for some good saves from one time United target Akinfeev. Perhaps the formation had as much to do with the performance as the personnel. The next step would be to transfer this level of performance to the EPL consistently.

United looking comfy in 3-5-2

LVG was the first manager to frequently experiment with three CBs – but it never looked pretty. However, while the players struggled to cope with the Dutchman’s regimented style of play, they appear to be flourishing under Jose. The Special One’s system of 3-5-2 gives the players more license to be creative and dynamic, while retaining the same defensive stability. Jose appears to prefer this formation in Europe – especially for the away games – and it may likely come in handy during the latter stages of the competition.

Lukaku strikes again

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The Belgian rises to give United the lead within four minutes of kick-off (Picture credit: @ManUtd)

The Belgian goal-machine can’t seem to stop scoring and is no doubt silencing doubters, who questioned his ability to perform at a higher level. The striker has three goals from two appearances in the CL and should have scored more against CSKA (at least gotten his treble) – that perhaps being the main dampner on the night. Regardless, not bad for a player making his first strides in the competition and at United. It’s no surprise Lukaku felt he belonged in the Champions League. Jose would have been especially pleased to see his CF helping out in defense during the latter stages of the match.

Martial in form

Martial has been showing signs of resurgence all season (even by Jose’s admission), but this performance on Tuesday showed that the forward is getting back to his best. The pacy attacker created two goals for Lukaku from wide positions – demonstrating marked improvement in his crossing, from both flanks. With delivery like what he displayed against CSKA, United certainly have no need for Perisic. Asides his crossing, the skillful forward’s generally game was confident and purposeful – taking on defenders and beating them at will. With Rashford also in form, Jose must now seriously consider fielding both youngsters at the weekend. Martial has now scored 30 goals for United since joining back in 2015/16; which is more than any other player at the club in that period of time. It is only a matter of time before the former Monaco youngster is back on Deschamps radar for the French team, despite missing out again.

Herrera and Matic compatible afterall

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The Serbian midfielder continues to impress for United

The previous occasion the two midfielders were on the pitch together, they seemed out of sync. However, with Fellaini, Carrick and Pogba sidelined, the duo started together and complemented each other sufficiently – proving they could form a solid central midfield partnership. Herrera has been out of favor this season, but will likely play a key role in course of the campaign. Matic was his usual impressive self and his diagonal pass to Darmian late on (which the wing-back should have scored from) was akin to a heat seeking missile. Good stuff.

Lindelof showing promising signs

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Lindelof appears to be adjusting ahead of a double header against his former team

The Swede has found it tough at United following his move, and would be grateful for the occasional appearance. On evidence of his display, it may not be too long before we see Lindelof on a more frequent basis. The former Benefica CB showed marked improvement on his previous outing, albeit against a CSKA Moscow side that didn’t pose too much of a threat. Regardless, the player appeared more assured than he has been on any of his previous appearances in a United shirt.

De Gea shows class

The Spaniard was called upon on a few occasions in the first half and he responded in typical fashion – pulling off world class saves. There is no doubt that de Gea is now indisputably one of the three best keepers in world football (alongside Neuer and Buffon). However, he would have been dissapointed to concede a shot through his legs late on in the game – a likely result of the general complacency of the team at the time. Poor Romero will be wondering when next he’s going to get a game, as Mourinho doesn’t appear to be willing to rotate his keepers in Europe this time around.

Up next in the CL is a double header against Benefica, which could potentially put United on the brink of qualification – assuming the results are positive.

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