MANCHESTER, Sept 13: Substitute Marouane Fellaini proved an unlikely source of inspiration as Manchester United comfortably defeated Basel 3-0 on their return to the Champions League.Fellaini, a replacement for the injured Paul Pogba, gave United a 35th-minute lead at a drizzly Old Trafford yesterday and teed up Marcus Rashford for the hosts’ third goal after Romelu Lukaku had struck early in the second period.
Marouane Fellaini of Manchester United celebrates after scoring against Basel during the UEFA Champions League Group A match at the Old Trafford in Manchester.
It was United’s first Champions League game since December 2015, with Jose Mourinho’s side having engineered a return to the competition by winning the Europa League last season.
Basel had previously proved a thorn in United’s side, eliminating them from the Champions League in 2011-12, and they inflicted a surprise defeat upon Mourinho in the first European game of his second Chelsea stint in 2013.
While Raphael Wicky’s side were pushed aside without too much fuss in this Group A opener, Pogba’s premature exit with an apparent hamstring injury meant Mourinho could not reflect on an entirely satisfactory night.
With Ashley Young coming into the United XI at right-back in place of Antonio Valencia to make his first start of the season, Pogba inherited the captain’s armband from the Ecuadorian.
But the Frenchman’s debut as United skipper would last just 18 minutes after he abruptly clutched the back of his left leg and was obliged to hobble off in disgust, with Fellaini joining the fray.
United had been getting on top and they went close to taking the lead when Henrikh Mkhitaryan jabbed Lukaku’s low cross against the post and then saw his follow-up smothered by goalkeeper Tomas Vaclik.
Luca Zuffi gave the hosts a scare when he sliced wide in front of the Stretford End after Chris Smalling failed to deal with a high ball, but two minutes later United opened the scoring. – AFP