Manchester United’s good start to the season continued as they kicked off their UEFA Champions League campaign with a convincing 3-0 victory over FC Basel at Old Trafford.
The home side were dealt a blow when Paul Pogba suffered an early injury, but his replacement, Marouane Fellaini, headed home the opener after 35 minutes.
Romelu Lukaku scored his first Champions League goal for the club in the second half before the result was wrapped up by in-form substitute Marcus Rashford with six minutes to go.
United started the game dominating with fast, flowing football and could have took the lead twice in the opening 15 minutes. Anthony Martial’s smart pass allowed Juan Mata to break into the penalty box, but his hooked cross was headed over by Henrikh Mkhitaryan from six yards out. It was a great chance and the Armenian international should have scored.
Just after, Lukaku skipped away from the impressive Eder Alvarez Balanta and swiped a shot at goal from 20 yards, but the ball fell comfortably for Basel goalkeeper Tomas Vaclik who made an easy save.
The Premier League side were dealt a blow when influential midfielder Pogba was brought off after suffering a hamstring injury. The French playmaker was captaining United for the first time and looked bitterly disappointed to leave the game at such an early stage. Luckily for the Red Devils, the change did not disrupt their attacking football as more chances came and went.
Mata was getting into some great positions and did well to spread it wide for Lukaku who beat his man and swung in a low cross, but Mkhitaryan could only hit the post from four yards out. It was an awful miss and for the second time in the first half, the midfielder had wasted a guilt-edge opportunity.
Basel’s tough trip to Manchester could have got worse in the 28th minute, but Balanta was very unfortunate to escape a sending off after a clumsy foul on Mkhitaryan. The former Borussia Dortmund man broke forward but was chopped down by a two-footed lunge from Balanta and the centre-back looked relieved to see the referee pull out a yellow card rather than a red.
After defending largely for most of the opening half an hour, Basel started to come out of their shell and could have grabbed the opening goal in the 33th minute. Blas Riveros’ cross was nodded down nicely by ex-Norwich City man Ricky van Wolfswinkel into the path of Luca Zuffi, but the winger flashed well wide on the half-volley from 20 yards. It was a good chance in a game that Basel weren’t expected to get many of and they were punished for that miss minutes later.
Ashley Young had taken the captain’s armband after Pogba’s departure and did really well to drop the shoulder and skip past Riveros and a cross of real quality to the back post allowed Fellaini to head home from close range. It was a good header from the Belgian but credit must go to Young for a superb assist from the full-back role.
The goal provided some relief to Jose Mourinho’s side heading into the half-time break and that relief turned to joy early on in the second half. With 53 minutes on the clock, Lukaku struck his sixth goal in all competitions to double United’s lead. It was Daley Blind who drilled in a powerful cross to the ball post but the Belgian striker did well wrestle himself into the position to power his header into the top corner from ten yards out.
It could have been 3-0 just nine minutes later as Mkhitaryan’s curling free-kick was headed at gaol by the stretching Lukaku, but the in-form striker saw his effort parried away at the near post by Vaclik. Up the other end, the Armenian’s poor pass allowed Renato Steffen to split the United defence with a through ball to Mohammed Elyounoussi, but the attacking player saw his powerful shot tipped over by David De Gea.
United did stretch their lead further as Rashford scored his third goal in as many club games just minutes after coming off the bench. Fellaini skipped away from Balanta and swung in a low cross that evaded Mkhitaryan but was converted by the young English international to the loud cheer of the watching Stretford End.
It was a professional job done for United as the full-time whistle signalled the end of the game and Mourinho will be pleased with the good form continuing into their European campaign.