1) Martial should play up front
For much of the first half Anthony Martial cut a forlorn figure on the left flank. Martial was employed on the wing to counter the threat of marauding Brazilian right back Mario Fernandes with his lightning pace, just as he had done so effectively against Everton’s Seamus Coleman on Saturday. But CSKA’s early lead meant the Russians were reluctant to attack and Martial often looked stifled. His goal came after a clever run through the middle to meet Valencia’s cross and steer the ball past CSKA captain. Martial has the ability to petrify defenders from whatever angle, but you can’t help think that if he began each game in a more central position this would be exploited fully.
2) Rooney’s desire can’t be questioned
Martial’s isolation only served to further ostracise Rooney up top. Without his support and a lack of adequate service owing to heavy congestion in midfield as CSKA sat on their 1-0 advantage, Rooney’s night was one of frustration. But United’s captain, who turns 30 this week, still showed unwavering desire to run for each ball and mostly in vain. He looked every inch a player eager to capitalise on a long-awaited goal. Those that have heaped (not necessarily undue) criticism on his shoulders from the stands may be wise to encourage, rather than reprimand, their skipper.
3) Lingard is why Januzaj was loaned
The loaning of Adnan Januzaj to Borussia Dortmund raised eyebrows across the United terraces with many thinking the in form Belgian had done well enough at the beginning of the season to surely be involved this term. His exclusion also caused many to question Louis Van Gaal’s faith in youth.
Enter Jesse Lingard. The Warrington born youngster gathered gleaming references while on loan at Derby and Birmingham and was also a standout for England’s U21 side in the European Championships last summer.
Lingard put in a mature performance against a cultured CSKA side to provide a link between Rooney and the midfield, although that cause at times seemed lost. It may be a cliché but United have a proud tradition of youth team players making the grade in the first team and Lingard looks as though he is ready to carry it on.
4) Doumbia is one to watch at Old Trafford
Ivorian Seydou Doumbia is the best kept secret of the Russian Premier League. The striker had an incredible scoring record for CSKA in five seasons from 2010-15 and has picked up where he left off since rejoining on loan after his summer move to Roma. His reactions outwitted everyone to knock in the rebound from Mario Fernandes’ saved penalty taking his tally this season to nine goals in as many games. United will have a tough night trying to neutralise the lightning quick target man in the return leg.
5) It’s all to play for in Group B
It would seem that qualification is open to all in Group B. Each team began on 3 points a piece before Tuesdays matches and only three points separate leaders Wolfsburg and bottom side PSV on six and three points, with CSKA and United both on four. With a win a loss and a draw so far in the group, United will be looking for maximum points in the remaining three matches, knowing any slip up can dramatically alter their chances and open up a gap for their group rivals.