Two goals in the space of a minute in the second period saw United turn a 1-0 deficit into a 2-1 win, after CSKA had struck right on the cusp of halftime.
Here are two good and two bad performances from United’s victory.
The much-maligned left-back was handed his first start of the season, and played like he had a point to prove. He was a menace in attack down the left flank, taking his opportunities to run at the CSKA defence whenever he had the chance. Shaw was caught out at times defensively, and was partially at fault for the Moscow goal, but he also put in a few good recovering tackles and showed that he has worked on that side of his game as well.
Mata has been relegated to the bench in recent times, making only three starts since being hauled off at halftime during United’s October loss to Huddersfield and not featuring at all in the club’s crucial clashes against Tottenham, Chelsea, and Arsenal. But on Tuesday, it was Mata at his best, picking out pockets of space for himself, making dangerous forward runs to provide an outlet in attack, and laying on chances for his teammates. It was his flick – with his weaker right foot, no less – that set-up Marcus Rashford for United’s winner.
The young CSKA midfielder didn’t have his best display. In fairness, having to handle Paul Pogba‘s marauding runs and Mata drifting all over the pitch to find space isn’t easy, but it was clear that the 21-year-old wasn’t up to the task. Golovin moved the ball well, but otherwise offered little control in midfield. He also was dispossessed far too easily, allowing United to develop their attacks further up the pitch.
Vasin was at fault for both of United’s goals, and that cost his side their chance at a shock result. After United’s bright start, the hosts were struggling to break down CSKA’s defence, but in the space of a minute, Vasin was beaten by both of home team’s strikers, and both times, the striker in question scored. First, he allowed Romelu Lukaku to get goal side of him on a run, and the Belgian duly poked home United’s equaliser. Then, Lukaku’s flicked header ultimately fell to Mata, who produced a flick of his own – sublime skill, it must be said – over Vasin’s head, for Rashford to sweep home.
Romelu Lukaku and Marcus Rashford sealed the success over CSKA Moscow to ensure a 40th successive game without defeat at their Old Trafford home – a club record last achieved between 1964 and 1966 by their legendary former boss’s famed side.
With a crucial Manchester derby to follow on Sunday, the triumph provided the perfect lift for Mourinho’s men.
The decisive goals, 67 seconds apart in the 64th and 66th minutes, completed an impressive comeback from the hosts after they had fallen behind in the 45th minute to a strange goal.
Vitinho’s strike went in after hitting Alan Dzagoev on the back with the midfielder offside, but played on by United defender Daley Blind who had slid behind the goal and was still deemed active.
CSKA needed to win by seven clear goals to stop the hosts going through, but that was never going to happen.
What this game did, though, was perhaps herald the rebirth of injury-plagued left-back Luke Shaw.
Three years since his much-vaunted arrival from Southampton, this was only his 50th appearance. With 48 minutes of previous action this season, Shaw was handed a first start since April. Under scrutiny, under pressure, this was a chance to prove his worth – and a point to arguably his harshest critic, Mourinho.
The United boss witnessed commitment and quality at both ends of the pitch.
Dashing down the left, Shaw met an Antonio Valencia cross with a volley that forced CSKA keeper Igor Akinfeev into the first part of a fine double save, spreading himself to block Lukaku’s follow up.
Shaw then made a great run in behind the defence but his low cross just eluded Rashford.
It formed part of a strong United start. After only three minutes, Lukaku showed good strength and skill to send Rashford clear, but his shot rolled against the inside of the post.
Rashford then tested Akinfeev with another low effort. The visitors were struggling but got a break just before half time with Dzagoev’s opener.
United restored parity when Paul Pogba floated over a perfect pass for Lukaku to finish with a stretching volley. A minute later Juan Mata lofted a pass for Rashford to finish with aplomb.
Romero: Deputising for the rested De Gea, but didn’t have a shot to save until he picked the ball out of the net. Denied Dzagoev near the end. 6
Lindelof: Very little to do, but an assured display from the Swede which will help his confidence. 7
Smalling: The defensive commander and marshalled his side well. Dangerous on set-pieces too. 7
Blind: Comfortable in a three-man Inadvertently played a crucial part in CSKA’s opener when off the pitch and playing Dzagoev onside. 6
Valencia: Driving runs from the United skipper down the right and equally combative at the back. 7
Herrera: A peripheral figure when he had the opportunity to press his claims for a start against City on Sunday. 5
Pogba: The dismissal at Arsenal may have contributed to a largely subdued performance, but still produced a peach of a pass to set up Lukaku for his volleyed strike. 6
Shaw: It was like the Shaw of old, driving down the left to support his attack and determined in defence. 8
Mata: Neat and tidy, but a player of his calibre needs to be more involved as he was in the second half. 7
Lukaku: Solid and offered good support to Rashford, his second goal in 13 games will have done his confidence the world of good. 7
Rashford: A well-taken goal, but wasteful with other chances when he could have had a hat-trick. 7
McTominay (for Herrera 66′): Offered stability in the midfield and composed display as United took control. 6
Tuanzebe (for Valencia 71′): Gave his captain a rest as he gained more first-team experience. 6
Martial (for Lukaku 73′): Another brought on to provide Lukaku with a breather before the derby. 6
In this addition of In Focus, we track the performance of Barcelona forward Paco Alcacer who was given a chance to shine by boss Ernesto Valverde on Tuesday night.
With qualification to the knockout phase of the competition already secured and second-placed Juventus, realistically, being unable to catch Blaugrana at the top of Group D – the hosts made several changes for the visit of Sporting Lisbon – a side who were still in with a shot of progressing.
As it was, Alcacer – who replaced the rested Lionel Messi and led the line alongside Luis Suarez and Nelson Semedo, played the full 90 minutes in a comfortable 2-0 win.
The 24-year-old scored a second-half header from a corner following Denis Suarez’s assist. Former Barca defender Jeremy Mathieu, on his return to Catalonia, then netted an own goal in the dying minutes.
Here, we look at Alcacer’s performance in-depth:
Goals – 1
Assists – 0
Shots – 3 (1 on target)
Dribbles – 0
Passes – 50
Key passes – 0
Pass Accuracy – 80%
Touches – 64
Aerials Won – 3
While he has very much been a bit-part player since signing for the Catalan giants from Valencia at the beginning of last season, with options short in attack, Alcacer is a handy player for Valverde to have up his sleeve.
The 24-year-old, who scored an important brace last month in the 2-1 home league success over Sevilla, clearly needs to play more matches and definitely took his opportunity.
Alcacer may not be the most talented or technical frontman but there’s no doubting his eye for goal and willingness to stay in the penalty area – a fox in the box if you like.
His reward came in the 59th minute when the ex-Getafe forward showed clever movement and energy to get on the end of Suarez’s set-piece – glancing a header into the back of the net.
It has to be said that Alcacer is more suited to playing centrally, rather than on the left, but he is a useful back-up for Barca in a campaign where they’ve been short of alternatives other than the obvious.