Manchester United’s four-goal haul against CSKA Moscow proved to be another statement of intent from the Red Devils this season. Anthony Martial, Romelu Lukaku and David De Gea were all in fine form on Wednesday night.
Jose Mourinho called this the “strongest” display from teams he has managed against CSKA, having done so with Chelsea, Internazionale and Real Madrid. “That was my best team. It is true,” Mourinho said. “I came here and faced very good teams but I think this was the strongest performance. Today we were really strong and it was my strongest performance here.”
This is a massive compliment considering the fact that CSKA are always a very difficult and tricky side to face in the Champions League, especially if you think about United’s hard-fought draw in Moscow two seasons ago.
De Gea rescues the back 3
For this game, Mourinho surprisingly went for a back three defence with Smalling, Lindelof and Bailly. Overall the three did well considering the fact that is was their first partnership outing. Nevertheless, CSKA had some good spells in attacking play, as only the reflexes of David De Gea kept United out of trouble until injury time, when the home side pulled back a consolation goal.
During the first half, CSKA attacked and an Aleksandr Golovin miskick became a pass that rolled to Alan Dzagoev. The No10 pulled the trigger but De Gea dived to his right to steer the ball out for a corner; a vital save indeed as United shortly got their second goal of the game.
De Gea’s class was such that when called upon after United’s flurry of goals he could still react expertly to keep out a Fedor Chalov effort and at the interval it remained 3-0, with the contest surely over. The Spaniard shot-stopper is truly one of the secrets to Manchester United’s dominant performances this season.
Lukaku and Martial are unplayable
Both Martial and Lukaku had a great game on Wednesday night. The former was simply unplayable as he danced with pace and ease in front of CSKA’s player; the latter on his own maintained his incredible goalscoring form and was very adept in finding space behind the opponent’s centre-backs.
United’s opening goal arrived on four minutes and was started and finished by Lukaku. The No9 spun a pass out to the left that was perfectly weighted into Martial’s path. The Frenchman cut inside and whipped in the ball onto the head of Lukaku, who beat Igor Akinfeev to his left from a few yards out from goal.
Again, CSKA succumbed to the Martial-Lukaku combination late on in the first half. The winger bounced a cross in from wide, Vasili Berezutski air-kicked and gifted Lukaku his 14th goal in 11 appearances this season, his 10th in nine for United.
Of Lukaku, Mourinho said: “It is a great achievement but it is only possible with a good team. Without a good team it is not possible and the team is playing well. They are amazing numbers for Romelu. He is humble and wants to learn and improve all the time. I think ambition is there and I don’t think he is going to be very impressed with your great words because I think he knows when things aren’t going well your [media] words are also strong in a negative way. I trust he can keep performing for us.”
The Portuguese manager will indeed be hoping that the two play well this weekend as Manchester United host a Crystal Palace side which is desperately in search of their first Premier League goal this season.