Manchester United 2-1 CSKA Moscow: Red Devils progress into the Champions League last-16
By Daniel J. McLaughlin
Manchester United were, by and large, guaranteed a place in the Champions League last-16 before they faced CSKA Moscow at Old Trafford. It would have taken a seven-goal drubbing by the visitors, and a victory for FC Basel, to prevent the Red Devils from progressing. Jose Mourinho's side would also need to be defeated by four goals to deny them top place in Group A.
These scenarios were irrelevant in the end as United booked their place in the last-16 with a victory over the Russian side. Despite trailing at half-time, the Red Devils were able to turn the game around and maintain their 39-game unbeaten run at Old Trafford and 100 per cent home record this season.
Jose Mourinho made six changes to his side, bringing back Luke Shaw for his first United appearance in seven months - and his first appearance in the Champions League since he suffered a double leg break in September 2015. The defender impressed in his return. While he should have done better for CSKA Moscow's goal, the 22-year-old looked sharp in his attacking movement and almost scored a goal, if it wasn't for a fine save by Igor Akinfeev.
Goals are usually scored from a foot or a head, but the visitors opened the scoring with a back in the 45th minute. A cross from Mario Fernandes, who burst into the box, found Vitinho who fired a shot that deflected from the back of Alan Dzagoev and into the back of the net.
There were calls for offside with Dzagoev in an offside position. The only United player that was keeping him on was Daley Blind, who had slid off the pitch after attempting to block the cross. BBC Sport cites International Football Association Board rules to justify the goal, stating: "A defending player who leaves the field of play without the referee's permission shall be considered to be on the goal line or touchline for the purposes of offside until the next stoppage in play."
The home side's response came after the hour mark with only 66 seconds separating their equaliser and then the winner. Romelu Lukaku got back on the scoresheet at last when he latched on to a Paul Pogba pass in the 64th minute. The Belgian scored his 13th goal of the season, which would seem impressive enough until you realise that 11 came in his first 10 games - the striker has scored just two goals in his past 12 games. Pogba hit a lovely curled ball to Lukaku in the box, who volleyed it past a flat-footed Akinfeev.
His header from the half-time sent Marcus Rashford on a run in the middle, who passed it to Juan Mata in a one-two with the return pass being a loft to the youngster. The 20-year-old waited for the ball to bounce once in the box, before hitting a sweet half-volley into the bottom corner in the 66th minute.
Manchester United will play in the Champions League next in February. Until then, the Red Devils will face Manchester City in a derby, with the title contenders playing at Old Trafford on Sunday (K.O. 4.30pm).