Manchester United manager Jose Mourinho believes he has now arrested the decline in the club’s Champions League away form.
The 4-1 win over CSKA Moscow in Russia gave his side a three-point advantage at the top of Group A after only two games and qualification for the knock-out stage should be a mere formality considering the poor quality of their opponents.
Basel, who lost 3-0 at Old Trafford earlier this month, beat Benfica 5-0 while Mourinho’s pre-match assessment that CSKA’s current team were the best he had faced in all his visits with Real Madrid, Inter Milan and Chelsea looked generous at best.
Having won the Europa League last season the Portuguese has United back on an upward curve in continental competition after their standing went into a downward spiral under Sir Alex Ferguson’s successor David Moyes and his replacement Louis van Gaal.
Mourinho may have been having a dig at the Dutchman in particular when he pointed out how things had turned under his guidance after four defeats and just one win in their last eight Champions League games away from Old Trafford.
“Before results away from home in the Champions League were not the best,” he said.
“After one season outside (the competition) we come back and we come back in strongly with a strong performance away.
“Did the players play well? Of course they did. I think all of them for an hour had a very good performance.
“It was a strong performance, a strong start with great personality and no-one is speaking about the players who couldn’t play. I am really happy with the performance.
“I came here and faced very good teams (in the past) but I think this was the strongest performance.
“With Real Madrid we came in the knockout phase and we came to play for a specific result.
“Three-nil at half-time is unexpected. We had the game in our hands and then it was just control so it was really good.”
On his return to Manchester Mourinho has to assess his options for Saturday’s 3pm kick-off at home to Crystal Palace having travelled to Moscow without seven senior players, including the likes of Paul Pogba, Michael Carrick, Marouane Fellaini, Phil Jones and Antonio Valencia.
It is a chance to extend their unbeaten Premier League record to seven matches and take the outright lead at the top of the table as neighbours Manchester City face a much more difficult task against defending champions Chelsea.
“We play Saturday three o’clock against a fresh team and we have to play after this match,” he added.
“We have to keep our feet on the ground, stay humble and follow our direction because we are having a very good start to the season.”