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Jose Mourinho, manager of Manchester United, accused his players of putting their Champions League victory over Basel in jeopardy by playing what he described as “Playstation football”.
United were able to mark their return to Champions League competition with a comfortable 3-0 win at Old Trafford over the Swiss title holders, but Mourinho was left unhappy and unimpressed with how his side played for much of the second half.
Goals from Marouane Fellaini, Romelu Lukaku and Marcus Rashford were enough to give United the win.
“We stopped playing seriously and stopped making right decisions”
However, Mourinho was critical, saying, “Until 2-0 we were stable, we played with confidence. After 2-0 everything changed, we stopped playing seriously and stopped making right decisions. We could have put ourselves in trouble. We were playing fantasy football, Playstation football. I don’t like it – flicks and tricks. We gambled and you have to respect your opponent. I don’t know if goal difference will play a part. We lost position, our shape, we lost balls in easy situations. I didn’t like it – the players relaxed too much.”
But Mourinho was once again full of praise for midfielder Fellaini, who came off the bench in the 19th minute to replace the injured Paul Pogba. Fellaini scored United’s opening goal and then set up the third for Rashford.
Mourinho “weak” without Fellaini
Before the game, Mourinho had claimed he “felt weak” when he did not have the Belgian to pick from. He said, “I keep saying the same about Fellaini. He is a player with special qualities and he gives me multiple areas of action. He is one of my most important players.”
Fellaini provided two key contributions to the game, which came either side of the other United goal scored by Romelu Lukaku. That makes it six goals for Lukaku in all competitions for United since he arrived from Everton in the summer.
Rashford continues amazing debut form
Marcus Rashford’s goal came just seven minutes after his introduction from the bench in the 77th minute, which helped to continue his run of scoring on debuts. He has now scored on his first appearance in the Champions League, Premier League, Europa League, FA Cup, League Cup and for England.
However, Pogba now looks set for a spell on the sidelines after being forced off with what appeared to be a hamstring injury. When asked about the extent of Pogba’s injury, Mourinho said, “I don’t know. I just know from experience it’s a muscular injury. In my experience, muscular injury stops you from playing for a few weeks, I think. Squads are for this, squads are for injuries, squads are for suspensions. We don’t cry with injuries. So, if no Paul for Sunday, we have Herrera, we have Carrick, we have Fellaini and we have Matic.”
Good to be back in the big time
So, Manchester United made a winning return to the Champions League with a much-deserved home victory over Swiss side Basel. Once Marouane Fellaini, who had come on to replace the injured Paul Pogba in the first half, rose highest to head United ahead from an Ashley Young cross with 10 minutes to go to the break, the result never looked in doubt.
Fellow Belgian, Romelu Lukaku then strengthened United’s grip on the game by converting from inside the box from a Daley Blind cross. When Marcus Rashford fired home the side’s third from a Fellaini low cross seven minutes after coming on, the Old Trafford faithful were thrilled.
The 3-0 win could have been even greater for Mourinho’s side, who were making their first appearance in Europe’s biggest club competition since 2015. They qualified having won last year’s Europa League competition in May.
Basel were pinned back in their own half for much of the game, but could have made the home crowd nervous has Luca Zuffi not fired wide from an unmarked position in the box just before Fellaini’s opener.
Mohamed Elyounoussi also forced David De Gea into a fine save from inside the box as the visitors became more ambitious in the final quarter of the match.
In the other game in Group A, CSKA Moscow beat Benfica 2-1 in Portugal.