UEFA Champions League
Manchester United vs. PFC CSKA Moscow
Venue: Old Trafford
Date: Tuesday, 3 November 2015
Kick-off: 19:45 GMT
Manchester United secured a narrow 1-0 victory over Russian side CSKA Moscow at Old Trafford that moves them to the top of Group B.
Despite the scoreline, United were excellent in a first half where some vibrant football and plenty of chances were created, with goals the only thing lacking from the performance.
They had to be patient but this all changed in the 79th minute as captain Wayne Rooney, who has had his fair share of critics this season, popped up with a vital header, turning home Jesse Lingard’s cross, to give Louis van Gaal’s side the three points.
A bright start from United saw Marcos Rojo’s cross drop to Rooney on the edge of the area, and his left-footed strike fell just wide.
Rooney nearly pounced on a loose backpass with Lingard later seeing a shot blocked.
Lingard was then almost on the end of Rooney’s through ball, only for Igor Akinfeev to smother the United youngster, as the keeper then thwarted Rojo on the rebound.
The resulting corner led to Lingard shooting over, with the ball evading the Warrington-born player’s head from Rojo’s cross after Rooney picked out the left-back on the far side.
Daley Blind’s diagonal was met by the touch of Juan Mata, but the ball was held by Akinfeev, with Rojo driving an effort wide in a later attack.
Georgi Schennikov was booked for a clumsy challenge on Ashley Young and in a separate free-kick incident; Rooney’s delivery was missed by the head of Chris Smalling.
Neat link-up play between Mata and Young saw the latter’s low cross drop to Lingard, but he fired over off-balance.
The final chance of the half was probably the best one, with Rooney spreading the play to Young on the right, and his whipped cross was met by the volley of Rojo, only for the attempt to just miss the target.
With the potential of half-time disrupting United’s rhythm, they went about the second half in similar fashion to the first to their credit.
Lingard’s low cross was turned behind by Sergei Ignashevich, with Rojo heading the resulting corner wide from Rooney’s delivery.
Rojo himself put in a decent cross into the penalty box, only for Anthony Martial’s header to be held, with Ahmed Musa trying the spectacular at the other end to no avail, after Pontus Wernbloom was booked for hauling down Lingard.
Lingard threaded in Mata, who squared it to Rooney, but the original shot was blocked, with the skipper unable to latch onto the loose ball on the rebound as CSKA desperately cleared their lines.
Michael Carrick volleyed wide after an initial cross fell kindly to him, with a scare to follow at the other end moments later.
Substitute Seydou Doumbia was in on goal, only for De Gea to save his attempt, but the ball fell back at the striker’s feet, and with Young slipping on the line, a goal looked certain, only for Smalling to fly out of nowhere and block the shot on the line.
This turned out to be a crucial moment for United, with Carrick’s immaculate pass allowing Lingard to volley the ball across goal first time, with Rooney on hand to head home in front of a jubilant Stretford End, with a little more than 10 minutes left to play.
Blind’s cleared header then fell through to Rooney, who played in Lingard, with Akinfeev having to turn the venomous strike over the bar.
Wernbloom tamely stroked the ball wide with De Gea clutching onto Alexei Berezutski’s header in stoppage time, as United held on to the win.
It was hard fought but at the same time, this was one of United’s better performances of the season, with the side making the most of home comforts, after defeating Wolfsburg at Old Trafford on matchday two.
This brings United’s total to seven points in what is turning out to be a very tight group, with PSV Eindhoven the visitors on matchday five, on Wednesday 25 November.
Up next for United is another home game, this time in the league this coming Saturday, when West Bromwich Albion visit, with a 3pm BST kick-off, before November’s international break emerges.
Manchester United: De Gea; Young, Smalling, Blind, Rojo; Carrick, Schweinsteiger (Herrera 89); Mata (Memphis 74), Rooney, Lingard; Martial (Fellaini 66).
Subs: Romero, Jones, Darmian, Herrera, Pereira, Memphis, Fellaini.
Manager: Louis van Gaal
CSKA Moscow: Akinfeev; Fernandes, Ignashevich, A. Berezutski, Schennikov; Wernbloom; Tosic (Golovin 75), Natcho (Doumbia 55), Milanov, Dzagoev (Panchenko 85); Musa.
Subs: Chepchugov, Vasin, Panchenko, Nababkin, Golovin, Doumbia.
Manager: Leonid Slutsky