Manchester United fell to a late goal against Basel, after dominating the first half of the game. The result means that United now need a point in the game at home against CSKA Moscow to ensure their qualification as group winners.
Here are the major talking points from last night’s game:
Profligacy costs United
After the game, Jose Mourinho said that United should have been 5-0 up at half time, and he wasn’t too far off the mark. The Red Devils bossed the first half, and should have carried a commanding lead into the break. Marouane Fellaini could have had a hattrick, grazing the post with one effort, while Martial and Smalling were also guilty of missing decent chances. United have usually taken their chances this season, as is borne out by the number of games they’ve scored four in, and they need to continue doing so or else they could be punished yet again.
Pogba makes United tick
Paul Pogba was handed the armband for this game, only his second after returning from injury, and the Frenchman ran the show. Pogba sent Lukaku through early on in the game with a delightful pass, and almost everything good that United did seemed to flow through him. United simply look like a different team with him in the side, and his availability is crucial to United’s hopes both domestically and in Europe.
Rojo finds his mojo
In the injury-enforced absence of Eric Bailly and Phil Jones, Marcos Rojo was parachuted into the lineup for his first game in seven months, since he suffered his knee injury in the same game as Zlatan Ibrahimovic, back in April. The Argentinian was probably the best player on the pitch, showing no signs of ring-rustiness as he mopped up everything when the Swiss came forward sporadically. He even managed to smash a deflected 25-yard effort onto the bar in the first half, while he was blameless for the Basel goal. Rojo’s return is good news for United, as they have looked slightly vulnerable at the back in recent games.
Backup fullbacks not nearly as good
Both Antonio Valencia and Ashley Young were rested for this game, with Matteo Darmian and Daley Blind coming into the side. Both players flattered to deceive; Darmian’s delivery from the right left a lot to be desired, and while Blind was marginally better, he lost Michael Lang for Basel’s goal. Darmian could have done better for the goal as well, allowing Raoul Petretta to get past him too easily. On this evidence, United’s reserve fullbacks are the reserve fullbacks for a reason.
Mkhitaryan absence mystifying
Henrikh Mkhitaryan has gone from undroppable to invisible. The Armenian, who had started the majority of United’s games this season, was absent from the squad entirely for the second game running. Mkhitaryan had been enduring a poor run of form of late, but that run coincided with Pogba’s absence; it was widely assumed that the return of the Frenchman would allow the Armenian to blossom once again. However, United’s #22 has been conspicuous by his absence for both games since Pogba’s return. He doesn’t seem to be injured, and Jose Mourinho may face an awkward question or two if his absence extends to the home game against Brighton.