Manchester United a throwback to their teams of old against CSKA

Matt Haynes | November 3, 2015

United of old returning?

Champions League evenings at Old Trafford have been like a footballing institution over the past decade or so. Right up there with the FA Cup on a Sunday afternoon hosted by a non-league club, who take a favourite to a replay.

Against CSKA Moscow, there was evidence to suggest that the same endeavour and spirit that Sir Alex Ferguson’s sides played with is on its way back. You almost felt a sense of privilege to watch United on a Tuesday evening, sweeping aside European minnows with Ryan Giggs, Paul Scholes and co scoring for fun.


While the margin of the victory was small, there was still plenty for the club and all associated to be positive about. There was a relentless attacking spirit, chances galore and quite simply a persistence not seen since the days of Ferguson.

Lingard loving life

One such debate, however, still rumbles on. It concerns Wayne Rooney and his deployment in a lone striker position. Not long into the first half during the CSKA clash, social media quarrels began to kick-off as conjecture continued. “Why is he not making forward runs?” “Why is he dropping off?” “Why has he not hit the target?”

You get the gist. However, what many seemed to miss was that Van Gaal played him behind Anthony Martial; it wasn’t his responsibility to be making forward runs. With Jesse Lingard and Juan Mata on either side of him, his role became highly undervalued.

The fact that he was dropping even deeper, created much more space for the lively Lingard to exploit; quite a feat with the high, well-organised line the Russians were utilising. Lingard himself bears a resemblance to Giggs, who stepped into George Best’s shoes. His high-risk, fearless style embodied United of old. While the collective end-product is far from what it once was, the potential is definitely there.

Soccer - UEFA Champions League - Group B - Manchester United v CSKA Moscow - Old Trafford

While many supporters were restless, almost expecting too much, there had to be a sense of realism about the level that United are currently at. It should not have been 3-0 by half time as some seemed to suggest. CSKA played their part well.

Deja vu

However, the goal brought with it a sense of deja vu and appropriately in front of the Stretford End. Michael Carrick lofted a delicious ball over between the centre back and left back, linking Lingard who cushioned back across the goal mouth for Rooney to connect with a header. Almost straight off the training ground.

It was almost a blueprint created when Cristiano Ronaldo and Carlos Tevez accompanied Rooney in attack. This telepathy can be re-established in months to come and Lingard would be a prime candidate.

Soccer - UEFA Champions League - Group E - Manchester United v Celtic - Old Trafford

Everyone has seen what Martial offers. Although it was quite a frustrating night for him in front of goal, he is a defenders’ nightmare. Capable of holding up play and with pace to burn, he can be the third proponent of a potentially devastating attack.

There is plenty for United, odds-on at 4/9 with Coral to win Group B, to build on after picking up these three points and with Ferguson in attendance for this Champions League match, he will have recognised his beloved team for the first time in a while.


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