Mourinho holds all the cards: United talking points ahead of CSKA clash

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Manchester United will hope to follow their crucial 3-1 win away to Arsenal with a positive result against CSKA Moscow at Old Trafford on Tuesday.

The visitors will need a win or draw and hope that the result from FC Basel’s clash with Benfica goes their way as well if they are to progress from Group A and make the Champions League round of 16.

Here are a few talking points ahead of the encounter.

OLD TRAFFORD FORTRESS

Louis van Gaal laid the foundation and brick by brick, Jose Mourinho has rebuilt Old Trafford’s aura since. A fortress once decimated during David Moyes’ brief spell has been restored to its former glory.

It’s taken time but Mourinho instilled in United an air of invincibility while playing on home soil, much like he did at Chelsea when they took to the pitch at Stamford Bridge.

Avoid defeat against CSKA, and United will have matched a club record 40 successive home games unbeaten in all competitions. With the Manchester Derby to take centre stage at the Theatre of Dreams over the weekend, such a record would hold the Red Devils in good stead.

MOURINHO HOLDS ALL THE CARDS

Despite the defeat to Basel in the previous group game, United head into this fixture in pole position. Barring an unlikely defeat of huge margins and specifically unfortunate sequence of results, Mourinho’s men will take their place in the next round of the competition.

The hosts can play with freedom with that in mind and will also have their best player in Paul Pogba lead them out as his red card against Arsenal rules him out of the derby on Sunday and the two following Premier League games.

Meanwhile, while coming into the game off the back of a 6-0 win against Tosno, will be without their key men as Pontus Wernbloom and Bibras Natcho both serve one-game bans while Alexei Berezutski has a broken leg.

Wernbloom’s absence will be a big blow with creativity in short supply in the CSKA ranks. Much will rest on Brazlian forward Vitinho is the visitors are going to pull off an unlikely win.

Paul Pogba

Paul Pogba

PLAYING TIME

With qualification virtually in the bag and winning the group not deemed as important given the quality of opposition destined to finish runners-up in the group stages and placed in Pot 2, Mourinho has the opportunity to rest a few players.

Tuesday’s game also gives him the chance to hand a few others some much-needed playing time. Luke Shaw is one who is perpetually being denied minutes on the pitch while Phil Jones who has been the team’s defensive stalwart has returned to training. Will he be given a run out ahead of the derby on Sunday?

With Pogba now likely to feature, another midfielder can be afforded a rest while it will be interesting to see if Mourinho persists with Romelu Lukaku or plays Marcus Rashford up front instead to give the Belgian some time off.

Much of his selection will be made with one eye on the derby as United seek to cut Manchester City’s eight-point lead at the top to five on Sunday.

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Scout report of Man United, Real Madrid target Oberlin

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Every week we pick out one under-23 player from around Europe and analyse their performance to provide you with an in-depth scouting report.

This week, it’s time to shine the spotlight on Switzerland and Basel youngster Dimitri Oberlin, whose side hosted Manchester United in the Champions League.

Here’s an analysis of his performance as Basel shocked United in a 1-0 win.

BASIC STATS

Goals – 0

Assists – 0

Shots – 3

Shots on target – 1

Pass Accuracy – 86%

Key Passes – 1

Dribbles – 0

EFFECTIVENESS

It was a difficult afternoon for Oberlin, especially in the first half as United dominated possession and Basel were largely reduced to sending long balls towards the young striker – a tactic that was never going to work against United’s defence.

He grew into the game in the second half, along with his team, but fluffed his lines with his most presentable chance, failing to get a good connection when played through in the box and allowing the recovering defender to block his shot.

KEY MOMENTS

26th min, CHANCE: Oberlin’s work off the ball created a chance for his team, as he dispossessed Marcos Rojo high up the pitch to start a counter for Basel. Unfortunately for the young striker, the United defender recovered to cut out the cross when Oberlin was waiting to tap it in.

41st min, SHOT: This was a chance for Oberlin to steal the headlines. It didn’t quite work out that way, however, as the youngster’s free-kick flew over the crossbar.

72nd min, SHOT: Oberlin’s clearest chance of the night. A Basel counter led to the Swiss man being slipped into space in the box, but he scuffed his shot and Rojo’s brilliant recovering tackle blocked the attempt anyway.

VERDICT: 6/10

Oberlin wasn’t given an easy brief on Wednesday, left largely isolated leading the Basel line. But even with that in mind, he failed to make much of an impression. His link-up play left a lot to be desired and he failed to hold up the ball well when Basel tried to relieve the United pressure in the first half.

The 20-year-old had a decent chance in the second half, but scuffed his shot when a better connection could have given his side the lead. Luckily for him, when an even better chance was presented to one of his teammates, Michael Lang was on hand to give Basel the shock win.

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No excuses for Romelu Lukaku and other Man United talking points from Basel defeat

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Manchester United dominated the first half away to FC Basel but the hosts rallied in the second and deservedly edged a 1-0 win to keep them in the hunt for a spot in the Champions League round of 16.

The visitors were guilty of not taking their chances in the opening period while Marouane Fellaini and Marcos Rojo both rattled the woodwork and were punished by Michael Lang’s 89th minute winner.

The defeat still leaves United in prime position to win Group A or at the very least qualify unless they suffer a heavy six-goal defeat to CSKA Moscow while and Basel beat Benfica in the final round.

Here are three things learned from the encounter in Switzerland.

POGBA RETURN LEAVES LUKAKU WITH NO EXCUSE

It’s no coincidence that Paul Pogba’s first game back from injury saw Romelu Lukaku end his seven-match drought for United. The Frenchman creates chances for the striker whether directly or just by making the rest of the team tick.

Against Basel as well, there was the chance in the first half, when Pogba played Lukaku clean through only for the Belgian to force a save from the keeper when he really should’ve scored.

Early in the second half as well, Pogba crossed for the striker who couldn’t direct his header on target. Lukaku is the kind of player who needs service to thrive and you could say that has been absent while Pogba was sidelined but not anymore

If United’s summer signing wants to establish himself among the elite centre forwards in Europe, he needs to be more clinical and assume the role as the team’s match-winner.

Paul Pogba

Paul Pogba

THE END OF THE ROAD FOR SHAW?

Pogba returns to fitness and goes straight back into the team, Zlatan Ibrahimovic returns and makes two appearances off the bench, Marcos Rojo gets a start against Basel but Luke Shaw still can’t get a game from Jose Mourinho.

It appears that the Portuguese has completely lost faith in the young left-back, choosing to start Daley Blind instead. The Dutchman lack of mobility regularly exposes him when he plays as a full-back and looked out of his depth again on Wednesday night.

Blind was beaten for pace on a few occasions and couldn’t offer much going forward either, visibly struggling to keep up with Anthony Martial. Somehow, Shaw was still left on the bench even with United searching for a winner.

For the goal as well, Blind looked over and saw Lang over his should twice before the cross came in but didn’t act quickly, was sluggish and failed to intervene.

Luke Shaw

Luke Shaw

ROJO BOOSTS MOURINHO’S OPTIONS

One of the positives of the game in Basel for United will be the return of Rojo.

The centre-back put in a solid performance in his first game back. He was excellent on the ball and even managed a shot from over 35 yards out that took a slight deflection and rattled the cross bar.

The Argentine made two interceptions on the night to go with his three clearances and two tackles while his one block was a crucial one to deny Dimitri Oberlin.

He also had the most passes in the game (92), six more than Ander Herrera. With Phil Jones and Eric Bailly recovering from injuries and the left-back role perpetually up for grabs, Rojo’s return could prove to be a timely one for Mourinho heading into the busy fixture period.

Marcos Rojo (R)

Marcos Rojo (R)

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