It’s been a while since they’ve held the spotlight of Europe’s brightest stage, but Manchester United are making up for lost time in the Champions League, Jose Mourinho’s side destructive as they swept aside CSKA Moscow 4-0.
The hosts were expected to provide a stern test for the visitors but United were on their way after just four minutes with Romelu Lukaku rising high to nod in Anthony Martial’s cross.
The Frenchman then rolled in a penalty after Henrikh Mkhitaryan was felled in the area, and the game was as good as over after 26 minutes when Martial again set up Lukaku to make it 3-0.
CSKA rarely threatened and Martial was again involved in the fourth, forcing a save from Igor Akinfeev who parried his shot into the path of Mkhitaryan who swept home.
Here, we examine the players who warmed the hearts on a chilly night in the Russian capital and those who froze on the big stage.
It was feared the Frenchman might not have had a future at Old Trafford in the summer after a underwhelming 2016/17 season – but he has made the doubters eat their words with a superb start to the season.
And this was the former Monaco man’s finest performance to date – providing two assists for Romelu Lukaku, scoring a penalty and having a big role to play in United’s fourth and final goal too.
His talent is obvious, yet in Jose Mourinho’s first season at the helm of United, he was rarely able to coax the best out of the flamboyant Frenchman, who visibly regressed after a stunning debut campaign in England.
Not usually one to mollycoddle his players, you feared whether Mourinho’s patience would quickly wear thin with Martial, who often visibly cuts a frustrated figure when things don’t go his way.
However, when things are going his way he’s a hard man to stop. Add in a change of attitude and a work ethic Mourinho is famed for instilling in his troops, and it seems Martial’s star is on the rise once more.
Another game, another fruitful 90 minutes in front of goal for the Belgian striker. Despite his goalscoring exploits for Everton, the big man arrived in Manchester this summer with niggling doubts about his ability to do it on the big stage.
He’d talked about wanting to play in the Champions League and you can’t really ask for much more from Lukaku, whose record on Europe’s big stage reads: two games, three goals.
In total he’s now bagged 10 goals in nine games for United, proving his pure goalscoring talent, while also silencing a few critics perhaps too. His technique still needs some work and he gave the ball away cheaply on a few occasions against CSKA, but there’s no doubting his ability to sniff out a chance.
He dominated his marker to nod United ahead and was in the right place at the right time to make the points safe with his second and United’s third after just 26 minutes. He would have had a deserved hat-trick in the second-half bar a superb stop from Igor Akinfeev and he was also brilliant and holding the ball up and bring team-mates into play. The future for the Reds is rosy with this man leading the line.
The centre-back turned 35 this summer and he looked every one of his years in a lethargic, lackluster display. The hosts were expected to provide a chilly welcome for the Red Devils in Russia but proved to be generous hosts, with the veteran most culpable.
He struggled to cope with the brawn of Lukaku all night, while Martial ran him ragged when cutting inside, as did the quick and zippy nature of United’s incisive passing.
The low point for Berezutski was United’s killer third goal. There appeared little danger when Martial floated in a harmless looking cross into the penalty area. But rather than providing an experienced, assured presence, Berezutski lazily swung a right leg at the ball and missed, allowing it to go through to Lukaku who stabbed in for an easy finish.
Once described as the saviour of Russian football, the attacking midfielder had a night to forget as he was left out in the cold by an organised and largely untroubled United defence.
The 27-year-old was dispossessed twice and had two unskilled touches as he finished with a lowly 73.5 per cent pass success rating, which was the third worst out of all players on the pitch – including goalkeeper Akinfeev (60.9) and substitute Georgi Milanov (50) who replaced Dzagoev with 18 minutes to go.
Rather than acting as the fulcrum for his side and instigating CSKA’s attacks, Dzagoev was largely a bystander as United ran riot. He offered precious little through his 47 touches of the ball – the seventh most for CSKA – and will not want to see his barely readable heatmap.
Anthony Martial endured some growing pains last season as he adjusted to the demands of Jose Mourinho, but the Manchester United attacker has hit the ground running this season.
The Frenchman, who scored only five goals across all competitions all of last season, has already matched that tally after grabbing United’s second on Wednesday night in their Champions League tie against CSKA Moscow.
This had the potential to be a banana-skin fixture for United, as trips to Russia are never easy, but Martial produced a stunning display to lead a United rout.
Along with his goal, he assisted two Romelu Lukaku goals, while Henrikh Mkhitaryan scored from a Martial shot that was saved.
Here’s an in-depth look at the United man’s stellar display in Moscow.
Goals – 1
Assists – 2
Shots – 2
Dribbles – 6
Passes – 31
Key passes – 5
Pass accuracy – 84%
Touches – 61
Martial is nearly unplayable when he’s in this form. He tormented the CSKA defence, largely from his berth on the left wing as he cut in from that flank time and again to devastating effect.
He popped up on the opposite wing as well on occasion, and even found himself in the centre of the attacking line at times. Martial was everywhere, and wherever he went he was unstoppable.
4th min: This is what’s expected of Martial when he plays on the wing. Always adept at cutting in from the left and dribbling past defenders, he did exactly that and then picked out Lukaku with a perfect cross to produce United’s opener.
19th min: It seems Martial has moved ahead of Lukaku in the pecking order when it comes to penalties. Having scored from the spot against Everton in the Premier League a couple of weeks ago, he was on penalty duty again and made no mistake
27th min: Similar to his first assist, albeit much more fortunate. Yet again, Martial cut in from the left and fashioned a cross. This one was underhit, but CSKA defender Vasili Berezutski completely missed the ball when trying to clear, leaving Lukaku with a tap-in.
Our verdict: 9/10
The only blot on Martial’s book on Wednesday was his failure to convert when through on goal in the second half. It goes to show how good a night he had, however, that even that resulted in a goal, as Mkhitaryan swept home the rebound. This was Martial at his best, continuing his strong start to the season.
Big guns Manchester United, Paris Saint-Germain, Juventus, Barcelona and Chelsea all registered wins in the Champions League on Wednesday night.
The fixtures produced some quality performances as well along with a few disappointing ones.
Here’s a look at three good and three bad performers from the night.
Manchester United strolled to a 4-0 win away to CSKA Moscow and the man at the centre of it all was Anthony Martial. The Frenchman was given a start ahead of Marcus Rashford on the night and took full advantage.
He was involved in all four goals for the visitors, setting up Romelu Lukaku with crosses for the first and third goals. The 21-year-old clearly slotted away the second from the spot after Henrikh Mkhitaryan won the penalty before the Armenian turned in the rebound from his effort in the second half.
The Frenchman created five chances, registered two assists, a goal and six assists, all neatly wrapped up in a one scintillating performance before he limped off in the 72nd minute.
The score sheet features Dani Alves, Edinson Cavani and Neymar for PSG in their 3-1 win against Bayern Munich but make no mistake about it, Kylian Mbappe was arguably the most threatening player on the pitch.
He’s 18, new to the club and playing in a star-studded line-up but that hasn’t seen him shine any less bright than he did as the main man at AS Monaco. Mbappe terrorised the Bayern defenders and set up Cavani for a superb goal to make it 2-0.
Having created three glorious chances, he should’ve had a couple of more assists as well had his teammates been a bit more clinical. He went off to a well deserved standing ovation in the 79th minute.
Eden Hazard is just returning to full match fitness after missing the start of the season but you wouldn’t have guessed it from his performance away to Atletico Madrid.
The Belgian star was a constant threat to the hosts, wriggling free of challenges, leaving defenders for dead and setting up Alvaro Morata for the equaliser after Antoine Griezmann opened the scoring from the spot.
He created a total of seven chances and completed six take-ons before being replaced in the 81st minute after which Michy Batshuayi went on to snatch the winner in stoppage time.
The German was a disappointment on the night as Bayern lost 3-1 in Paris. He should’ve hit the target when PSG went to sleep from a corner and Kimmich drilled a ball into him at the near post but he could only steer it wide.
David Alaba put in a delightful cross for him in the 21st minute but the Bavarian skipper’s header was off target from a promising position.
Apart from a few flicks and throughballs that didn’t really come off, Muller was anonymous for the rest of the game.
CSKA were humbled in their own backyard as United strolled to 4-1 win. Lukaku bagged a brace on the night but the victory for the away side also had plenty to do with a poor defensive display from the hosts.
Vasili Berezutski was at the heart of that defence and was largely to blame. The centre back won just one aerial battle all night as Lukaku dominated the back-line.
The Russian defender is the most experienced in that defence but did little to marshal the back three and instead committed a schoolboy error as he completely missed his clearance, allowing Lukaku to steal in at the back post and tap into an empty net for United’s third goal, which killed off the tie.
Partnering Jeremy Mathieu in central defence, Sebastian Coates struggled to match his teammate’s solid display. He made no clearances in the game while the former Barcelona man made five.
The Uruguayan was poor on the ball, being dispossessed on four occasions. There isn’t much he could’ve done about the own goal he conceded as it bounced off him and into the net but he wasn’t tight enough to his man when the set-piece was delivered.
He picked up a booking just before the hour mark as well which didn’t do him any favours as Barcelona secured a 1-0 win.