Why Last 16 qualification is a sign of progress for Manchester United

Jose Mourinho made six changes to the team that registered an assertive win over Arsenal, as Manchester United played host to CSKA Moscow for the final match of Group A in the Champions League.

The United boss deviated from his strongest xi, choosing instead to field fringe players in view of Sunday’s potential title decider against Manchester City.

The hosts conceded a controversial goal right at the stroke of halftime, but still managed to come from behind and win the tie courtesy of two quickfire goals by Romelu Lukaku and Marcus Rashford.

 

Top Group A

Jose Mourinho’s charges needed only a point to advance into the last- 16 but the Red devils left nothing to chance, as they put up a spirited fight by unleashing an onslaught against a team that had everything to lose.

Registering a win against the Russian side wasn’t so much about advancing into the knockout stages of the Champions League, but rather bore greater significance by setting the mood for the highly anticipated Manchester derby.

United join the likes of Paris St-Germain and Barcelona as group winners- an achievement that is by all standards quantifiable progress given their struggles in recent years.

 

Knockout phase

One of the main reasons why Jose wanted to qualify top of the group was to avoid the big guns at a premature stage of the European contest.

Winners of their group as they may be, this season’s draw for the last-16 will defy convention following a string of shock results by European powerhouses.

Manchester United could potentially face Bayern Munich, Juventus or defending champions Real Madrid who all finished second in their respective groups.

Emerging as group winners in the Champions League isn’t a passport to safety after all.

 

Competing on four fronts

Second in the League, into the quarterfinal of the Carabao Cup and third round of the FA Cup; I would endeavor to suggest United have coped well since their return to the Champions League.

This is in stark contrast to Tottenham who are soaring in the Champions League at the expense of domestic competitions.

Competing on all four fronts is a vivid illustration of Manchester United’s progress this season.

 

Written by Brian Humphrey

Follow Brian on Twitter @brihum

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