<
>

Lukaku, Rashford end barren runs to clinch group top spot for Man United

play
Man United 2-1 CSKA: United top Group A (2:28)

Man United's two rapid-fire goals in the second half downed CSKA Moscow and helped secure the top spot in Group A. (2:28)

MANCHESTER, England -- Three thoughts on Manchester United's 2-1 win vs. CSKA Moscow in the UEFA Champions League.

1. Comeback win seals top spot for Man United

It would have taken the most disastrous result in Manchester United's European history to dump them out of the Champions League and, despite CSKA Moscow taking a surprise lead, it never looked like happening.

With one eye on Manchester City's visit on Sunday, Jose Mourinho felt confident enough to make six changes to the team that beat Arsenal. Luke Shaw returned to the starting XI, while Sergio Romero, Daley Blind, Ander Herrera, Juan Mata and Marcus Rashford were also recalled.

David De Gea and Marcos Rojo were given the night off all together and, judging by the number of empty seats at Old Trafford, some United supporters also decided to rest up ahead of the derby.

Those who did turn up saw Rashford hit the inside of the post after four minutes, after which Shaw and Romelu Lukaku could both have scored before Vitinho gave the visitors a surprise lead a minute before half-time.

United's defenders argued Alan Dzagoev was offside when he deflected in the Brazilian midfielder's shot, but Daley Blind was playing him onside having slid off the pitch. Ultimately, though, it didn't matter, as two goals in two second-half minutes put things right for the home side.

Lukaku, who looked sharp all night, scored his first goal in five games from Paul Pogba's fantastic pass and then it was Rashford's turn to end a barren run, finding the net for the first time since October after a clever pass from Juan Mata.

The result ensured United will be in the hat as one of the group winners when the draw for the Round of 16 is made on Dec. 11 although Real Madrid, guaranteed to finish second in Group H, could yet be waiting.

Mourinho's more immediate concern is a battle with Pep Guardiola and Man City on Sunday. United's manager will be thankful that Lukaku, Chris Smalling and Antonio Valencia, all of whom should start, appeared to come through the game unscathed.

The result also equalled a club record 40 unbeaten games at home in all competitions. Mourinho will hope that his team have set a new benchmark by Sunday evening.

2. Shaw shows promise in rare opportunity

Shaw was back in United's starting XI for the first time in 219 days and this was the 22-year-old's first Champions League appearance since he suffered a horrific broken leg in Eindhoven more than two years go. It has been a long road back for a player, who was once the most expensive teenager in world football.

Injuries haven't helped, including the ankle problem that saw him limp off the last time he started a game, against Swansea in April. But he has also had to battle against Mourinho's demands; for the United manager it is not enough to be quick and strong.

Shaw still has those qualities and he charged forward from his position at left wing-back, first crashing a volley toward goalkeeper Igor Akinfeev's near post and then latching on to Pogba's perfect through ball to cross for Rashford, who couldn't make contact.

There was, though, also a hint of the things Mourinho still wants Shaw to work on and it was his man, Mario Fernandes, who was allowed time and space to cross in the build-up to CSKA's opener.

It was a momentary lapse and one that looked out of place in an otherwise impressive performance. The question for Mourinho and Shaw is whether or not this was enough to warrant more opportunities.

3. United's attention turns to derby day

Mourinho said he would not start thinking about Man City until Wednesday, but his selction suggested he had Sunday in mind at latest one day earlier than that.

As well as the absent De Gea and Rojo, Anthony Martial, Jesse Lingard and Ashley Young -- all candidates to start against City -- were on the bench and others who might be needed were taken off at the earliest opportunity.

Herrera was replaced moments after Rashford gave United the lead; with Pogba suspended and Marouane Fellaini, Nemanja Matic and Michael Carrick all injury doubts, the Spanish midfielder needs to be wrapped in cotton wool.

Meanwhile, Antonio Valencia's evening was also cut short when he was replaced by Axel Tuanzebe after 71 minutes and Lukaku didn't last much longer. All three went straight down the tunnel to begin their recovery.

Henrikh Mkhitaryan, by contrast, will not have enjoyed his evening. Even despite making a host of changes, Mourinho could not find a place in his squad for the Armenian midfielder, making this the fifth game in the last six that he has failed to even make the bench.

Mkhitaryan was brought in from the wilderness to start against Man City at Old Trafford more than a year ago but, banished to the shadows again, it looks unlikely history will be repeated.