Substitute Marouane Fellaini proved an
unlikely source of inspiration as Manchester
United comfortably defeated Basel 3-0 on their
return to the Champions League on Tuesday.
Fellaini, a replacement for the injured Paul
Pogba, gave United a 35th-minute lead at a
drizzly Old Trafford and teed up Marcus
Rashford for the hosts’ third goal after Romelu
Lukaku had struck early in the second period.
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
“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,” Mourinho told BT Sport.
Despite the comfortable margin of victory,
Mourinho rebuked his team for taking their
foot off the pedal.
“Until 2-0 we were very stable,” he said. “After
2-0 everything changed. We stopped playing
seriously and stopped making the right
decisions. We could have put ourselves in
“We were playing fantasy football, PlayStation
football. I don’t like it.”
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
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.