Manchester United manager Jose Mourinho said he did not know how seriously Paul Pogba had injured himself after the France midfielder limped off during Tuesday’s 3-0 win over Basel.
Making his debut as United captain, Pogba lasted just 18 minutes of the Champions League group game before being forced off by an apparent left hamstring injury, with Marouane Fellaini taking his place.
Pogba abruptly pulled up in midfield, clutching the back of his left leg, and after being helped off the pitch by a United physio he showed his disgust by tossing his armband aside as he hobbled down the touchline.
“I don’t know obviously, but by experience, just by looking and feeling, it’s a hamstring,” Mourinho told reporters at Old Trafford. “Big, small, I don’t know.
“I couldn’t be more pleased with him.”
— Manchester United (@ManUtd) September 12, 2017
“Squads are for this, squads are for injuries, squads are for suspensions. We don’t cry with injuries. So if no Paul for Sunday, we have Herrera, we have Carrick, we have Fellaini and we have Matic.”
Fellaini, Romelu Lukaku and substitute Marcus Rashford scored as United marked their return to the competition with a straightforward win.
Chelsea marked their Champions League return with a 6-0 Group C rout of Azerbaijan’s Qarabag, but sterner tests await.
Goals from Pedro, Davide Zappacosta, Cesar Azpilicueta, substitute Tiemoue Bakayoko and Michy Batshuayi ensured a comfortable return to Europe’s elite after last season’s first absence since 2003-04. The sixth was bundled in by a combination of Batshuayi and defender Maksim Medvedev.
Chelsea next play Atletico Madrid with the saga surrounding Diego Costa rumbling on, before home and away clashes with Roma. It is those games which will determine the Blues’ progress or otherwise.
Zappacosta’s 30th-minute strike was the highlight on Tuesday night at Stamford Bridge. The Italian, signed on deadline day from Torino and making his Champions League debut, struck from wide on the right. It appeared to be an attempted cross which, for him and Chelsea, was wonderfully miscued.
“Zappacosta – he scores when he wants” sang the Chelsea faithful as the right wing-back moved halfway towards Costa’s Champions League tally for Chelsea.
Costa has two goals in 15 appearances in the competition for the Blues and is now almost forgotten.
Fractious relations with Costa and the Premier League opening loss to Burnley led some to suggest a crisis at Chelsea. A month on and Antonio Conte’s side have four successive wins.
Qarabag beat the champions of Georgia, Moldova and Denmark to become the first Azerbaijan side to reach the Champions League group stages.
The English champions proved a different proposition, despite Conte rotating his options for the second of seven matches in September. Arsenal are the next opponents on Sunday.
Alvaro Morata, Eden Hazard, David Luiz and Bakayoko were among the substitutes, while Batshuayi, Andreas Christensen and Zappacosta were given an opportunity.
N’Golo Kante was making his Champions League debut despite winning the Premier League in successive seasons with Leicester and then Chelsea. And the France midfielder thrived in a ruthless team performance.
Marauding left wing-back Marcos Alonso had a shot punched away unconvincingly by goalkeeper Ibrahim Sehic and then a volley blocked by Rashad Sadygov before Chelsea took a fifth-minute lead.
A short corner was worked by Willian to Pedro, who, unmarked, curled the ball in from the edge of the area.
Gary Cahill started for the first time in a month. Back following a three-match domestic suspension after his sending-off against Burnley, Cahill was over-eager in catching Pedro Henrique from behind, earning a booking.
Sehic denied Willian and Batshuayi was unable to turn in the rebound from a tight angle before Chelsea’s second.
Thibaut Courtois rolled the ball to Zappacosta, deep in his own half. He ran down the right, by two would-be tacklers and looked centrally for a target in the area.
But, with goalkeeper Sehic off his line, what appeared to be a misdirected cross found the back of the net.
Zappacosta will no doubt say it was intentional and thereafter he was encouraged to shoot at every opportunity.
Henrique had a shot held by Courtois as Qarabag refused to sit back. Their defending was woeful and Azpilicueta stooped to head in a sublime Cesc Fabregas cross to make it 3-0 early in the second half.
Willian hit the bar before Bakayoko’s deflected effort went in after another short corner. Next Bakayoko and Bayshuayi combined, the latter drilling in low from the edge of the area. A Zappacosta cross was then turned goalwards by Batshuayi, with Medvedev hapless in his attempts to prevent the goal.
Like Zappacosta and Azpilicueta, the game marked Batshuayi’s first Champions League goals in a convincing victory.
Just eight years after starting life in the local leagues, RB Leipzig will enhance their rags to riches tale on Wednesday by hosting Monaco on the German club’s Champions League debut.
Backed by energy drinks giant Red Bull, who bought the licence of a fifth-division club, Leipzig began climbing Germany’s football pyramid in 2009.
They are widely unpopular with German fans, due to the commercialism they represent, but after four promotions in seven years they finished second last season in the Bundesliga to qualify directly for a Champions League place.
Leipzig make their debut against last season’s semi-finalists Monaco at the Red Bull Arena and director of sport Ralf Rangnick is proud of their achievement.
“When you think we were still in the fourth division five years ago, then the Champions League is another promotion,” said Rangnick.
“Something like that has never happened before and most likely won’t happen again in the next 50 years.”
This is a step into the unknown for Leipzig with only four members of their squad having Champions League experience.
Swedish playmaker Emil Forsberg, plus new-signings Bruma, Jean-Kevin Augustin and Kevin Kampl are the only ones to have played at this level.
The quartet have a combined tally of 31 Champions League appearances.
In contrast, 17 of the Monaco squad have 236 Champions League appearances between them and last season’s semi-final defeat by Juventus is still fresh in the memory.
But Leipzig coach Ralph Hasenhuettl sees his team’s lack of experience as an advantage.
“We want to create a surprise,” said the Austrian on Tuesday.
“We don’t want to just turn up, we want to leave our mark.
“They are a team who have a lot of quality and aren’t easy to play against.”
Rangnick is confident of a winning start to their maiden campaign.
“If we can show our full power on the pitch, then we are capable of winning,” insisted the RB boss.
This is the first time for nearly 29 years that European football will be played in the former East German city.
“We can sense the buzz all over town. It will be a massive occasion, for the club and for our fans,” said captain Willi Orban.
“Tomorrow, a dream will come true for all of us. It will be an emotional moment when the anthem plays.”
The last time a team from the city played in Europe, Diego Maradona’s Napoli drew 1-1 at Lokomotive Leipzig, on October 26 1988 in the second round of the UEFA Cup.
Fast-forward to Wednesday and Monaco will want to bounce back after being beaten 4-0 by neighbours Nice last weekend in their first defeat of the season after four straight wins to start their Ligue 1 title defence.
It was the first time they have failed to score in 37 top-flight games.
Leipzig are set to welcome back Forsberg, who missed Friday’s 2-0 Bundesliga win at Hamburg with a cold.
However, Liverpool-bound midfielder Naby Keita, who scored a superb opening goal at Hamburg, is set to miss out after picking up a groin strain.
“He had to break off training and he probably won’t be able to play,” explained Hasenhuettl.
In-form striker Timo Werner, who has scored five goals in his last four games and has been linked with Real Madrid, will lead the attack.
Monaco are missing France international winger Thomas Lemar through injury.