It remains to be seen whether Manchester United derive any benefit from winning their Champions League group. Real Madrid, the European champions, last season’s beaten finalists Juventus and Bayern Munich, all of whom have finished second in their respective groups, could lie in store when the draw for the round of 16 is made on Monday.
But that is a matter for another day. For now, all focus turns to Sunday’s derby against Manchester City and, while Jose Mourinho was happy with how United warmed up for a potentially defining game in the Premier League title race by coming from behind to beat CSKA Moscow and equal a club record 40 games unbeaten at Old Trafford, he was less amused by Pep Guardiola’s perceived mind games.
The City manager had suggested earlier in the day that David Silva was a doubt for the derby but, having heard Arsene Wenger say something similar about Alexandre Lacazette only for the striker to appear for Arsenal against United last weekend, Mourinho was not buying Guardiola’s claims for a minute.
It says a lot about how civil relations have been between Mourinho and Guardiola in Manchester that those remarks are about the closest things have come to a whiff of animosity, but the Portuguese has enough selection headaches of his own to contend with without trying to second guess his counterpart’s every move.
CSKA may not be up to much – defeat here consigned them to the Europa League as Basel took second spot in Group A – but Paul Pogba underlined just how big a loss his absence through suspension will be in midfield for United, especially as Mourinho said Nemanja Matic will be asked to play through injury against City.
It is uncertain United have another player who can, at will, produce the sort of sumptuous pass that Pogba provided for Romelu Lukaku to claim only his second goal in 13 matches, cancelling out Alan Dzagoev’s fortuitous first-half goal in the process and kick-starting a 66-second fightback that rubber-stamped top spot in Group A. But at least Mourinho has Lukaku back among the goals.
Mourinho suggested that mattered less to him than the player, but it was a welcome fillip for the Belgium striker, even if his all-around performance, like against Arsenal, hardly pointed to a crisis of confidence. Mourinho will certainly hope Lukaku leads the line with the same sort of gusto he did against the Russians.
Marcus Rashford was just as lively here, and although there are no guarantees he will start against City after losing ground to Anthony Martial and Jesse Lingard of late, this was a performance full of cunning and running from the England forward, who also claimed the winner with his first goal in 10 games.
Despite resting a posse of players for the derby, there was still no space in the squad for Henrikh Mkhitaryan, with the Armenian nowhere to be seen for the fifth time in six matches, although there was a spot for another outcast.
This was Luke Shaw’s first start for United for seven months and his first appearance in the Champions League since he suffered a double leg break in September 2015 that has wreaked havoc with his career since. But if he is to turn things around at United, this was a good place to start.
He might have done a little better for CSKA’s goal, but he got forward with pace and purpose, drew a fine save in the first half and, with a little more composure, might have teed up Rashford for a goal only to over-hit his pass after a surging run into the penalty area.
By the end, even Mourinho – his harshest critic – was glowing in his praise. United had been so dominant in that opening period, with Rashford also hitting a post, that it was a surprise to most to see CSKA take the lead, and in slightly unusual circumstances. Shaw had failed to track Mario Fernandes’s run and Daley Blind could not prevent the CSKA wing-back from pulling the ball back for Vitinho, whose shot was heading wide only for it to bounce in off the back of Dzagoev.
Man Utd vs CSKA Moscow shots on goal
Dzagoev initially looked offside but Blind, who had slid off the pitch trying and failing to thwart Fernandes, was still correctly deemed active and so the goal stood. Indeed, the rules state that “a defending player who leaves the field of play without the referee’s permission shall be considered to be on the goal line or touchline for the purposes of offside until the next stoppage in play”.
It was fanciful to think CSKA could hold on to their lead, though, and within a quick burst midway through the second period, they went from being in front to trailing. Anyone doubting how badly Pogba will be missed against City need only watch his involvement for the first goal. Picking up a pass from Chris Smalling 30 yards from CSKA’s goal, he curled a delicious left-footed pass into the penalty area for Lukaku to attack. It was the sort of ball that is a nightmare to defend but which strikers thrive upon and Lukaku reacted quickest, holding off Viktor Vasin to steer a controlled left-footed volley past Igor Akinfeev.
Man Utd 1 - 1 CSKA Moscow (Romelu Lukaku, 64 min)
One became two soon after and again the finish was exemplary. Lukaku flicked on a long ball, Rashford gave chase, the ball bounced off Vasin to Juan Mata, who lobbed a pass over the top of CSKA’s two defenders and into the path of Rashford, who drilled his shot beautifully into the far corner. It is 51 years since United last went 40 games undefeated at home. All Mourinho cares about for now, though, is beating City on Sunday.
Man Utd 2 - 1 CSKA Moscow (Marcus Rashford, 66 min)
Jose Mourinho post-match
"We confirm the way we want to confirm, playing well, having a result. At half time we were losing but playing well, I was not unhappy at all, we had a strong reaction, played professionally.
"If I could choose goalscorers I would always choose the strikers because their confidence sometimes depends on that. Lukaku I think his work for the team is... pftt... crazy.
"Other guys not playing so much, Luke Shaw offensively was very good. I'm really happy.
"He was waiting for quite a long time, it's not easy to give an opportunity to a player who hasn't played for many months. I wanted to make changes but changes in players who need a change, he managed to stay on for 90 minutes. I told him it's not a test and honestly I am happy with his performance."
Pogba's flash of skill
🔥 Behave Paul Pogba 🔥
Outrageous piece of skill from the French star 👏 pic.twitter.com/104OqkzTbh
Mata and Rashford reaction
I think it's always a good feeling to get on the scoresheet but the the most important thing was to win and avoid any injuries ahead of the weekend.
It's a new rule. We asked the referee but it counted so we have to be careful with that because it counts.
It's important to win for your confidence level. Sunday is a big game, tomorrow we have day off we rest, hopefully it's a good game of football and we can get the three points.
Average touch positions (0 min)
The offside rule
A defending player who leaves the field of play without the referee’s permission shall be considered to be on the goal line or touchline for the purposes of offside until the next stoppage in play or until the defending team has played the ball towards the halfway line and it is outside their penalty area. If the player left the field of play deliberately, the player must be cautioned when the ball is next out of play.
Turns out I was rather wrong. Apologies to you, Mr Referee.
United deserve their win and finish top of their group on merit. Luke Shaw had a great comeback and will surely be given chances in the coming weeks but Mourinho will be most pleased with the relative ease his players saw off this CSKA side, even if the finishing wasn't quite at the level he'll need it if United are to progress. Job done. From Russia with goalie gloves.
90 mins +2
CSKA have brought rather a few fans and none of them seem to mind it's cold. That is because it's Manchester cold and not Russia cold.
You can't say Man Utd haven't tried to extend their lead tonight:
Man Utd vs CSKA Moscow shots on goal
Still just a little profligate. That was what worried Mourinho last season.
Rashford does well to skip away from a defender at the halfway line and break to the penalty area but when he gets there, his choice of final pass isn't quite good enough and CSKA can block the path.
And it's nearly 2-2! That's a really smart save by Romero! CSKA are somehow able to cut the defence open and very nearly grab a late equaliser.
Update on the offside goal fiasco:
Manchester United have turned it around and lead 2-1. The CSKA goal was correctly given. If a player leaves the field he’s deemed as being on the byline. I got it wrong at halftime so apologies and well played, referee.— Gary Lineker (@GaryLineker) December 5, 2017
Martial goes down on the edge of the area, Rashford flicks the ball across the penalty area and the ref doesn't bring play back for a free-kick after the non-advantage. Another interesting decision.
Vitinho - the goalscorer - comes off for Zhamaletdinov.
Man Utd's goals:
64' - Man United 1-1 CSKA Moscow
66' - Man United 2-1 CSKA Moscow
You wait 64 minutes for a goal and two come along in 66 seconds...
Lukaku and Rashford fire United ahead 🔴⚪️ pic.twitter.com/9KdygkJ5ku
Luke Shaw has gone down with what may well be cramp. He hasn't played any football this season so that's to be expected and to be fair, Shaw has been excellent tonight, if we ignore the momentary lapse in concentration that led to CSKA's non-goal-that-was.
McTominay is booked straight away with a late, lunging tackle, earning valuable XP in the process. You can't do that in the Champions League, young Scott.
Lukaku comes off for Martial and will sleep well tonight after that goal. Mourinho gives him a hug as he comes off and is sent straight to the changing room to join Antonio Valencia. Mourinho's already getting his players prepared for the derby on Sunday.
Pogba hits a shot from miles away but misses the target.
Wayne Rooney is watching in the crowd. Eagle eyes from the BT Sport camerapeople!
Axel Tuanzebe is getting warmed up on the touchline. Mata is able to outsprint Berezutski on the left...
Valencia is taken off for the final 20 minutes in place of Tuanzebe, handing the captain's armband to Chris Smalling.
Scott McTominay is on for Ander Herrera. This game has completely changed in three minutes. How bizarre.
FC Basel are 2-0 up on Benfica just now so it doesn't even really matter if CSKA do get back into this one.
Pogba has just drawn the same reaction from the Old Trafford crowd as a firework gets. "Ooooohhhhhh!" they say collectively, as the Frenchman pulls off a wonderful bit of skill in the CSKA half.
RASHFORD MAKES IT TWO!
Man Utd 2 - 1 CSKA Moscow (Marcus Rashford, 66 min)
CSKA get caught as Lukaku flicks on a long ball from Valencia, Mata weights a perfect looping pass back over to Rashford, and the forward waits for the ball to drop before powering a left-footed finish into the bottom corner.
Brilliant from Lukaku! What a finish that is!
Man Utd 1 - 1 CSKA Moscow (Romelu Lukaku, 64 min)
The pass is stunning too. He controls, turns and sees the space ahead of Lukaku who holds off his man and executes a stretching, jumping, cushioned volleyed finish.
CSKA are camped in their own half - they can't get out! Pogba somehow manages to control a wild Lukaku first-time pass but CSKA do win the ball back and have a counter-attack chance on now... Blind heads away and now Rashford can run at goal. Mata finds Pogba, who plays it back to Mata, who switches to the right wing. Valencia looks for Lukaku but he doesn't get enough on his header and it's cleared.
Shaw tracks back and wins another tackle.
RASHFORDDDDD hits the wall and the ball deflects behind for a corner. United work the ball around the final third, Rashford crosses it in and Akinfeev flaps at it. United keep the pressure up, Shaw finds Mata with a really intelligent first time pass and then Herrera is held back and pulled to the ground inside the D. That should be a free-kick... but it isn't. This referee is... interesting.
Superb from Pogba. He comes to life 30 yards from goal, skips past one defender, plays a one-two and is barged to the ground on the edge of the box. This is a fantastic position for a free-kick, on the edge of the D, and Pogba, Mata and Rashford all fancy it.
So close United! Smalling (!) attacks a header at the back post as Mata pulls it across goal but he misses the goal. Another big chance, although that was a difficult one.
Out: Man Utd 0 - 1 CSKA Moscow (Chris Smalling, 55 min)
Shaw has the pace and strength to send Golovin flying as they contest a ball on the touchline. Great play again from the left-back.
Here's Daley Blind sitting down after sliding out of play, back in the simpler minutes when the referees were trying to make out that Blind was playing Dzagoev onside.
Ironic cheers from the Man Utd fans as Dzagoev is ruled to be offside. I wonder if the officials have reviewed that goal during the break?
Intriguingly, the goal has been given to Vitinho and not Dzagoev. Vitinho shot, it hit Dzagoev in an offside position, and the official stance is that Dzagoev... doesn't exist. We live in an alternate reality.
Rashford has the CSKA defence all sussed out but just can't find a finish yet. He goes close again early in the second half.
Attempt Saved: Man Utd 0 - 1 CSKA Moscow (Marcus Rashford, 47 min)
We're back! How will Man Utd respond? With goals probably.
Tough translation of the offside rule
"If a player goes deliberately off the pitch then he's onside but if he slides off accidentally then it should be offside."
So because the referee thought Blind could get back on the pitch, he awarded the goal. Not for me, Clive. He's done a massive wrong there.
Half time stats
Man Utd vs CSKA Moscow shots on goal
Man Utd vs CSKA Moscow
Well well well! Who saw that coming? United are in control of the game but not the score. I'd expect that to change in the second half.
CSKA have taken the lead! Wow! Where did that come from?
Man Utd 0 - 1 CSKA Moscow (Alan Dzagoev, 45 min)
And more importantly, should it count?! Almost certainly not!
The ball clearly hits the man circled, who is obviously offside. What on earth does that referee behind the goal-line even do? We'll need some clarification, but from my understanding of the rules, that is 100 per cent offside.
Valencia tries to go around the inside Nababkin, the defender falls down and takes Valencia with him. It's not a penalty... but that little incident has denied Valencia the chance to get in at goal. Shouldn't it be a foul? Owen Hargreaves says it'd be harsh.
Man Utd have dominated the midfield battle tonight and are having most fun attacking down the left wing. Whether that's because Shaw happens to be there or because Mourinho is focusing play on that channel is something I'm not sure about yet.
Average touch positions (40 min)
Another great tackle by Shaw who matches the pace of the wide player and then slides in perfectly to put it behind. Pogba leads the counter-attack from the corner, Rashford comes inside and very nearly finds Pogba with a clever reverse pass.
Pogba wins a corner with some trickery, balance and strength. United are going to really miss Pogba against Man City - some of the stuff he does with the ball is entirely unique to him.
Mata's given the ball away in his own area! Smalling doesn't read the pass, Shaw has to be careful not to bring Chalov down... he's falling like a cut tree... and Shaw flies into the next challenge, clearing the ball cleanly while taking the man out. It looks a little bit like a penalty but the replay shows Shaw has done brilliantly to clean up that mess.
What a pass. Lukaku keeps the ball in play, finds Pogba inside the pitch and then sprints into space on the left. Pogba knows where he's going and drops a beautiful pass in his running path but Lukaku doesn't take it down, let's it bounce and by the time he can actually touch the ball, can only cross it. His attempted pass isn't that bad really, but no-one is in the area looking for the cut-back.
Shaw is having a strong game here, defending well and using his pace to get forward when possible. Maybe he has a football brain after all.
CSKA are getting the ball into the final third and being forced all the way back. United are organised and look at least a level above.
Man Utd vs CSKA Moscow shots on goal
Wild effort from Vitinho. He strikes across the ball from 20 yards and watches the ball drift into the crowd and must have known he's never beating Romero from there.
Possession: Man Utd vs CSKA Moscow
United's shape really suits Mata. And Shaw, it turns out! The latter spots Pogba on the ball and sprints to burn past the last man, creating a through-ball opportunity which Pogba passes into. Shaw is in behind, crosses to Rashford and it must be the opening goal... but the ball is slightly hard and just too far ahead of Rashford.
Pass: Man Utd 0 - 0 CSKA Moscow (Luke Shaw, 22 min)
SO CLOSE UNITED! It's another quick, flowing move and Valencia crosses from the right wing into the box. It misses everyone, Shaw turns up at hte back post and hits a sweet first-time volley back across goal. Saved! Lukaku goes for the rebound but doesn't do enough and it's saved. United are creating some decent chances here.
Attempt Saved: Man Utd 0 - 0 CSKA Moscow (Luke Shaw, 20 min)
Rashford tries a smart turn and beats one man but has another defender further back to beat. Blind steps out to intercept in the centre-circle and suddenly United are on the attack! Lukaku faces up to the central defenders, does a few step-overs and is easily tackled.
Great move from United! Mata's control and touch are brilliant and Rashford is able to run onto the ball into the box and attempts a side foot shot. The goalie gets down to save and Lukaku is too wide to get on the rebound.
Attempt Saved: Man Utd 0 - 0 CSKA Moscow (Marcus Rashford, 15 min)
Dzagoev gets a shot away from 25 yards but it rolls harmlessly to the waiting Romero. United are kicking the ball to midfield from the goalkeeper and winning the second ball, bypassing the attempted high press of CSKA. Rashford takes a knock to the head from Berezutski but will survive.
Romero has just gotten away with a poor pass, making Smalling scramble to reach it before the waiting CSKA forwards can pounce and counter.
Man Utd have never lost at home to a Russian team apparently. Judging by this early start, that won't change tonight.
Shaw clears a corner but only as far as the CSKA midfield who work hard to get the ball back in an attacking position.
Mata is enjoying his central role and holds the ball until Valencia can join in down the right. The Ecuadorian tries a shot at goal but is blocked and it's a corner. Blind tries a super volley from distance and it's another corner.
CSKA want to pass around the United final third but can't quite find the final ball. Lukaku and Rashford are waiting high up the pitch to counter-attack, Lukaku gets the ball and feeds in Rashford... HE'S ONE ON ONE! Shoots... and it's in! NO! The ball comes back off the post! Huge moment and it's cleared behind for a corner which the Russians clear. Rashford should have scored.
Post: Man Utd 0 - 0 CSKA Moscow (Marcus Rashford, 4 min)
And United are in again! The ball is fizzed across the six yard box but nobody can poke it in. Shaw takes too long and has his shot blocked at the edge of the area. United are dangerous on the counter here!
It's a fairly scrappy opening with both teams swapping possession. United looking to start slowly and keep the ball where possible but CSKA are pressing them high trying to win it back.
CSKA get us started.
No Champions League theme
Shenanigans! Something's gone wrong with the p.a there.
"The ones we save is because they need to be saved. Matic is injured.
"Luke Shaw plays now and is a good opportunity for him but I don't want to look at it as though it's now or never, the group is good, people fight to have an opportunity. It's not an exam, they have to play, they have conditions to play. Hopefully they don't focus on individuals, focus on the team as a whole."
Players warming up
Man Utd's best players
Some make an appearance in our ranking of Premier League players right here:
Babbello Index November
This doesn't take the Champions League into account by the way.
Paul Scholes on Shaw
"He doesn't live as clean a life as he should. I hope there's a future for him because a few seasons ago I thought we were signing one of the best left-backs in the world."
Mkhitaryan not even on the bench
It's not really working out for the Armenian at Old Trafford. Yet again he's not even made the United squad and he's come under intense scrutiny from his manager.
Shaw's 50th appearance
It really doesn't feel like he's played that many games for... anyone actually, but apparently Luke Shaw will play his 50th tonight for Man Utd alone.
This #UCL match marks a milestone appearance for @LukeShaw23! pic.twitter.com/HB6ibNJIVS— Manchester United (@ManUtd) December 5, 2017
In previous months Jose Mourinho has been heavily critical of a footballer nowhere near his potential:
"He was in front of me and I was making every decision for him," said Mourinho in April this year.
"He has to change his football brain. We need his fantastic physical and technical qualities but he cannot play with my brain."
"He must accelerate the process. Twenty-one is old enough to have a better understanding. He has a future here but Manchester United cannot wait."
CSKA Moscow starting XI
Akinfeev; Ignashevich, Vasin, Berezutski; Fernandes, Golovin, Kuchaev, Nababkin; Vitinho, Chalov, Dzagoev
Man Utd starting lineup
Tonight's #MUFC team to face CSKA Moscow... pic.twitter.com/7o29qkl4Cp— Manchester United (@ManUtd) December 5, 2017
No messing around from Mourinho here - he's gone for a first choice starting XI to make sure United get the job done. If they are able to put a bit of distance, say two or three goals, past CSKA we might see one of the young substitutes later on. Luke Shaw has a gigantic chance to ensure he isn't written out of Mourinho's plans going forward.
Good evening and welcome to our liveblog for Man Utd's final Champions League group game of the competition. CSKA Moscow are the visitors tonight and will not be easy opposition, with the Russians sitting level on nine points with FC Basel and certainly committed to getting a result that will see them through to the knock-out stages.
United are top of the table with 12 points and will only miss out on progressing to the money-making latter stages if they lose six goals. So it's improbable... but not impossible (it basically is).
Jose Mourinho can't afford to take it lightly then but may well take the opportunity to rest some key players, the most likely being Romelu Lukaku making way for Zlatan Ibrahimovic, and maybe even some academy graduates. Who'd have thought?
The pitch looks lovely, Paul Pogba will grace it with his presence before he sits out however many games he has to miss through suspension, and those factors alone should guarantee some goals in this game. CSKA need to win since it's unlikely that Basel will lose to Benfica on current form, and to do that they have to attack. We'll find out the teams soon and can work out the gameplans accordingly!
Mourinho said previously:
"I am going to make a few, but not too many changes.
"We didn't qualify yet, we didn't finish first in the group yet, there are other clubs also involved in qualification and I need to keep a certain balance in the team.
"But when we speak about Luke Shaw, he's working to have an opportunity and sooner or later that opportunity will arrive because he deserves that opportunity.
"He is selected for tomorrow for sure... to start or be on the bench, I cannot answer."