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Top 5 talking points from Manchester United’s 3-0 victory over FC Basel

Fellaini proved his worth as Rashford continued his remarkable run of scoring in every single debut.

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Top 5 talking points from Manchester United’s 3-0 victory over FC Basel
Manchester United's Marouane Fellaini celebrates after the Champions League match against FC Basel on September 12, 2017 at Old Trafford, Manchester, Britain
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    So after what felt like a never-ending hiatus (even though it was barely one-and-a-half years), Manchester United fans heard the Champions League anthem being belted out at Old Trafford again.

    Winning the Europa League had earned the Red Devils the right to return to a stage Jose Mourinho called its ‘natural habitat’, and it was a straightforward win for the 2008 winners as they saw off FC Basel.

    The only dark cloud was the hamstring injury for Paul Pogba - proudly wearing the captain’s armband in Antonio Valencia and Michael Carrick’s absence – which is likely to leave him on the sidelines for a couple of weeks at least. Goals from Marouane Fellaini, Romelu Lukaku, and Marcus Rashford handed Manchester United the win over Roger Federer’s favourite club and the reigning Swiss champions.

    Here are the main talking points from the win:

    Marouane Fellaini’s graceless brilliance seals the deal

    Seen as synonymous of the nightmare that pervaded the Theatre of Dreams during David Moyes’ post-Fergie reign, the tall midfielder has often been ridiculed for not being a ‘Manchester United player’. The received wisdom was that Fellaini, with his uncouth gait, wasn’t a player worthy of pulling on the famous red shirt. 

    However, all the men who’ve managed Manchester United have rated the Belgian very highly and Tuesday’s performance against Basel, just like the cameo against Real Madrid in the European Super Cup, showed why.

    Coming on for Pogba, the big midfielder made an immediate impact by heading in Ashley Young’s cross to hand United the lead and later laid on an assist for Rashford to complete the scoring.

    In between, he harassed members of the opposing team, won key balls and reminded us that at times football, beyond the beautiful dribbles and cutesy passes, is also a battle that needs hard men.

    If Fellaini was a superhero, he would probably be Groot, the big hulking tree from the Marvel Cinematic Universe’s Guardians of the Galaxy. He might not be anyone’s favourite hero but he certainly gets the job done and is an indispensable part of the team.

    Paul Pogba’s unlucky injury

    The only downside of a perfect evening at Old Trafford was the sight of Paul Pogba hobbling out on crutches after pulling his hamstring. The world’s most expensive midfielder had started the season in ominous fashion linking up fabulously with his buddy and new arrival Romelu Lukaku and was even picked by fans as the Manchester United player of the month for August.

    On Tuesday, the midfielder was even handed the captain’s armband but woe befell the Frenchman as he pulled up with a hamstring injury that’s likely to keep him out for at least a couple of weeks. While Mourinho tried to downplay the incident stating ‘we don’t cry with injuries’, there’s no denying that Manchester United will miss Pogba, as they look to set an early season marker for the rest of the sides in the league.

    Romelu Lukaku – the ‘bargain’

    Six games, six goals – Romelu Lukaku is setting himself to become quite an Old Trafford favourite early on.  Mourinho had claimed, perhaps a tad cheekily that at £75 million, he was a bargain but if he keeps scoring like this, that might not be just a joke. Mourinho had said: “I think we were very clever. We thought that something could happen that could change the market forever. Normally the last part of the market is less expensive, but this season after Neymar everything changed – and changed for the worse in terms of prices. I think Lukaku on August 31 would have been £150 million.”

    While economists and vintage football fans might baulk at the suggestion that 75 million quid is a ‘bargain’, Lukaku’s early-season form suggests that he was the perfect forward to bring together this talented United team and score the goals that could’ve helped them turn draws into wins last season.

    An upgrade on Zlatan Ibrahimovic thanks to his blistering pace, Lukaku’s ability to hold up the ball and run at defenders, is helping United take teams apart. The big Belgian scored with another trademark thumping header in the second half.

    Understandably, the former Everton forward was delighted with his Champions League debut claiming that United could play even better.

    He said: “I think as a team we can play probably better, also the manager said this as well, but the result was good and I’m really delighted to have my debut in the Champions League. When a team drops deep you don’t have to play too narrow, you have to attack the space down the sides which is what we did – we put a lot of balls into the box. I am getting incredible backing from my team-mates and the manager is helping me every day and the hard work that I put in every day just pays off.”

    Given the red-hot form Lukaku is in, even Zlatan Ibrahimovic might have a hard time making it into the first team XI, when he returns.  

    Rashford scores on debut again

    Thrust into the side because of injuries to Anthony Martial and Wayne Rooney two seasons ago, Marcus Rashford has grabbed his opportunities. Coming on at the fag end of the match, Rashford put the gloss on the win with the third goal. It wasn’t the best of finishes, as he hoofed the ball into the ground but the youngster was rewarded for being at the right place at the right time.  

    This means that Rashford has scored in every single competition he has debuted in, including the Europa League, EFL Cup, FA Cup, and Premier League. He also netted on debut for the England U-21s and the England senior squad. Hopefully, there will be many more to come for the Englishman who seems like one of the more naturally gifted young forwards to wear an English shirt, since a young Wayne Rooney burst onto the scene in 2004.

    A classic Jose Mourinho moan

    Despite a near-perfect performance, Mourinho wasn’t too happy in the post-match conference as he blamed his players for playing ‘fantasy football’ after going 2-0 up. He said: ‘After that everything changed. We stopped to think, we stopped playing simple, we stopped making the right decisions on the pitch and we could have put ourselves in trouble.

    But they didn't score. We tried to play fantasy football, tricks, and when you stop to play seriously I don't like it. You gamble a bit. Maybe they felt the game was under control. But football is football, you have to respect opponents."

    The rant feels a tad too Fergusonsque, who would also castigate his team for losing focus when winning comfortably, and also shows how seriously Jose Mourinho is taking the competition.

    Early season signs show that this Manchester United squad has all the hallmarks of a classic Jose Mourinho side – big, strong, impenetrable, hard-to-beat and balanced. Mourinho knows, that United will face squads far more impressive than FC Basel down the line in Europe, and doesn’t want his players to get complacent and forget that.

     Eternal vigilance to maintain tactical solidarity is a must, and letting one’s guard down in Europe can have dire consequences, and Mourinho doesn’t want his team to forget that. 

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