Sunday 22 April 2018

Basel brushed aside by United

Man Utd 3 FC Basel 0

Romelu Lukaku scores Manchester United’s second goal in the win over Basel last night. Photo: Reuters
Romelu Lukaku scores Manchester United’s second goal in the win over Basel last night. Photo: Reuters

Manchester United eased back into Champions League life as Marouane Fellaini, Romelu Lukaku and Marcus Rashford put Basel to the sword last night.

Last season was just the second time in 22 years that the three-time European champions were without a place at the continent’s top table, but May’s Europa League triumph brought a much-needed return.

United’s first Champions League match in 644 days ended in a straightforward Old Trafford victory as substitute Fellaini, in-form Lukaku and substitute Rashford kicked off Group A with a 3-0 win against Basel.

The only negative on the Reds’ return to what manager Jose Mourinho calls their “natural habitat” was the injury to Paul Pogba, who left clutching his hamstring 19 minutes into his first game leading the side out as captain.

Fellaini came on for the Frenchman and quickly underlined just why Mourinho leans on him so heavily, heading the hosts into a deserved lead during a first half that saw Henrikh Mkhitaryan hit the post.

Basel were unbeaten on their two previous visits to Old Trafford but the Swiss champions never looked like getting anything out of Tuesday’s encounter.

Lukaku’s first goal in the Champions League group stage early in the second half compounded matters for the visitors, who were unable to prevent substitute Rashford netting his first goal in the competition late on.

However, an innocuous passage of play ended Pogba’s night.

Going into a challenge with Mohamed Elyounoussi, the skipper pulled up holding his hamstring and had to be replaced by Fellaini after several minutes of treatment.

Pogba headed straight down the tunnel after his 19th-minute substitution - a setback that did not throw United off kilter.

A snatched Luca Zuffi attempt was the best the visitors could muster before United’s pressure told in the 35th minute, thanks in small part to Ashley Young’s exceptional work.

Playing for the first time since being injured in May, a fine turn on the right flank was followed by an equally impressive cross that was met six yards out by Fellaini’s head.

A corner brought United’s second goal as Daley Blind followed a one-two with a driven cross into the box, where Lukaku easily outjumped the visitors’ defence to power home a header.

Rashford was brought on as United flexed their attacking muscle and by the 84th minute he had his first Champions League goal.

The impressive Fellaini ran behind and cut back a pass that, via a deflection, came to the 19-year-old, who made no mistake as he fired home United’s third.

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