Manchester United 2, CSKA Moscow 1
Manchester United manager Jose Mourinho praised his team’s second-half fightback after they scored twice in three minutes to qualify for the last 16 of the Champions League as Group A winners.
CSKA Moscow, needing a landslide victory to overtake United, led through Vitinho on the stroke of half-time, but strikers Romelu Lukaku and Marcus Rashford turned the match on its head and gave Jose Mourinho’s men the best chance of a favourable knockout round draw.
“We confirm the way we wanted to confirm, which was playing well and having a result,” said the United boss.
“The good thing was that the team in the second half showed the desire for not qualifying with a defeat. We could lose four or five-nil and qualify; that was not the objective. The objective was to play well and try to have a result and we managed to do both things.”
Rashford was United’s most dangerous player as the hosts, who were all but mathematically assured of qualification before kick-off, created several early chances.
The 20-year-old hit the post in the fourth minute, tested visiting goalkeeper Igor Akinfeev with a low shot shortly after, and then arrived just too late to convert left-back Luke Shaw’s low cross.
But CSKA took the lead just before half-time, amid some confusion, when Mario Fernandes got to the byline and pulled back for Vitinho to stab a shot goal-wards that ricocheted in off team-mate Alan Dzagoev.
Dzagoev had appeared to be in an offside position, but Daley Blind, who had slid off the pitch, was correctly deemed to be playing him on, and in any case the goal was awarded to Vitinho.
United responded in the 63rd minute when Paul Pogba floated a diagonal ball towards the penalty spot and Lukaku held off Viktor Vasin to volley his first goal in five games.
Two minutes later Rashford completed the turnaround and ended a nine-match drought when he ran on to Juan Mata’s ball over the top and drilled a first-time finish across Akinfeev.
“It’s good. If I could choose goalscorers I would always choose the strikers because their confidence sometimes depends on that,” Mourinho added. “I think Lukaku, his work for the team is crazy, it doesn’t matter the goals he scores. For Marcus, it was important too.”
The United manager then appeared to take a swipe at rivals for exaggerating the severity of injuries ahead of big games. Sunday’s opponents Manchester City have concerns over midfielder David Silva, while Arsenal fielded Alexandre Lacazette against United last weekend despite previously ruling him out.
“Our opponents, they have all these issues,” he said. “They have big issues and in the end everybody is ready to play. They have phenomenal organisations. We are a bit more humble. When we have a problem we have a problem. So the players who are injured are injured and I tell you the truth.”