Marouane Fellaini stars as Manchester United beat FC Basel on return to top table
Champions League Group A, Old Trafford – Manchester United 3 (Fellaini 35, Lukaku 53, Rashford 84) FC Basel 0.
After 658 days out of the competition, Manchester United eased to a comfortable win over a limited Basel side to get their Champions League campaign off to a decent start. Harder challenges lie ahead, and the hamstring injury suffered by Paul Pogba is inconvenient, but they will be happy with their night’s work nonetheless.
United created a number of presentable chances in the first half, Henrikh Mkhitaryan missing one fine opening and one remarkably easy one, but they eventually took the lead on 35 minutes when Marouane Fellaini, on for Pogba who seemed to pull a hamstring, headed home from close range.
Manchester United's Marouane Fellaini celebrates scoring their first goal with team-matesReuters
Basel actually started the second half the stronger, but on 53 minutes, Daley Blind curled in a cross following a short corner, and Romelu Lukaku did the rest, marking his competition debut with a goal. United relaxed thereafter, before, six minutes from time, Marcus Rashford, another sub, scored his obligatory debut goal; he has now bothered the onion bag in his first Champions League, Europa League, Premier League, League Cup and international appearances.
How can United defend better? Though United have conceded just once in five matches this season, they have not looked entirely secure at the back. Just before they scored, Basel missed a good chance and created two or three others too; and they were a team not especially committed to attack. Mourinho will doubtless be aware of this – it is just surprising he has not resolved the matter already, though the numbers might suggest to the contrary.
MAN OF THE MATCH
Marouane Fellaini (Manchester United) Made light of Paul Pogba's absence, and there can be few higher compliments. Scored one goal, made another, and generally bossed the midfield.
Basel: Vaclik 7, Akanji 6, Suchy 6, Balanta 6, Lang 5, Xhaka 5, Zuffi 5, Riveros 5, Steffen 5, Van wolfswinkel 5, Elyounoussi 6. Subs: Bua 5, Oberlin 6.
13’ - Lindelof lofts a lovely ball into Lukaku who shows and controls beautifully, moving to the right then laying infield for Martial. He scoops a delicious pass over the top for Mata, whose cross picks out Mkhitaryan ... only for him to head over the bar! That was superb from United, and they should now be ahead.
22’ - MAGICAL MISS MKHITARYAN! Lovely again from United, Mata finding Lukaku on the right of the box, and he drags the ball down the outside of Riveros very nicely, before squaring ... all Mkhitaryan needs to do is tap home, but somehow he bumps it against the post! He has another shy from the rebound, but can only loop that into Vaclik's arms.
34’ - Riveros swings in a cross from the left and Van Wolfswinkel bodies it down for Zuffi who, ten yards out, lashes well wide. That was a profoundly presentable chance.
35’ - GOAL! Manchester United 1-0 Basel (Fellaini) You know tha koo! Mkhitaryan drags back and switches play nicely for Young, who dips inside on his left before nudging back onto his right, sorting Lang and Akanji at the same time. He then swings over a cross and Fellaini heads home firmly. Penny for them, Zuffi old mate.
Marcus Rashford has scored on Premier League, Europa League, Champions League, League Cup and England debuts.
Romelu Lukaku has scored in four of his five Manchester United games so far.