MANCHESTER, England (AP) – Manchester United scored two goals in 66 seconds in coming from behind to beat CSKA Moscow 2-1 and finish top of its Champions League group yesterday.
And Jose Mourinho couldn’t be happier with the identity of his scorers just days before the Manchester derby.
Romelu Lukaku volleyed in just his second goal since September for the 64th-minute equaliser at Old Trafford. Strike partner Marcus Rashford then drove home an angled winner to complete the comeback, his first goal in 10 games stretching back six weeks.
“If I could choose goalscorers, I would always choose the strikers,” Mourinho said. “Their confidence depends on that sometimes.”
He’ll need his strikers to be in form against City, which has yet to lose a match this season and goes into the derby with an eight-point lead over United in the English Premier League.
Not that he was ever worried about Lukaku, even though the Belgium striker had only one goal in his previous 12 games — having opened the season with 11 goals in his first 10 games for United following his move from Everton.
“I am always happy with Romelu because the way he plays for the team is absolutely amazing,” Mourinho added. “But if he can score that goal and feel that happiness that strikers only get when they score goals, then great.”
By extending its unbeaten run at home to a club record-equaling 40 games, United eliminated CSKA from the competition. The Russian side finished behind Basel in third in Group A and dropped into the Europa League.
CSKA’s chances of sneaking second place looked possible, however, when Vitinho gave them the lead seconds before halftime by prodding home a finish that grazed the back of Alan Dzagoev, who was looking to dodge the ball in front of the goal.
United players appealed that Dzagoev was in an offside position, but United defender Daley Blind had slid off the pitch in the build-up to the goal and, according to FIFA regulations, was keeping Dzagoev onside.
Finishing first in the group is usually seen as preferable to being runner-up. But with the likes of Real Madrid, Juventus and Bayern Munich in line to finish second, United might not find a benefit this season.
“I’m not the luckiest guy with draws, so it’s better I shut up and forget it because we only play in February and until then I have to concentrate on the English competitions,” he said.
“It doesn’t matter the team we get in the draw,” Mourinho said. “That team will not be jumping with happiness to play against us.”
Manchester United’s next game is a long-awaited derby against their ‘noisy neighbours’ Manchester City this weekend. The Portuguese has also aimed a subtle dig at Pep Guardiola and Arsene Wenger by declaring he would only tell “the truth” about the fitness of his players.
Mourinho suggested Guardiola was being less than truthful by expressing doubts about the fitness of David Silva and hinted Wenger had done the same with regard to Alexandre Lacazette prior to United’s 3-1 win at Arsenal on Saturday.
Asked to provide a fitness update on his squad, Mourinho told reporters at Old Trafford: “The truth is Eric Bailly no chance for the weekend. Phil Jones a chance. (Marouane) Fellaini a chance.
“Zlatan (Ibrahimovic) a big chance and (Nemanja) Matic is injured, but will play for sure. I’m telling the truth. He’s injured, but he’ll play for sure.
“(Michael) Carrick no chance. It’s the truth, eh? No stories of Lacazette, David Silva. All the truth.”
Wenger ruled Lacazette out of Arsenal’s meeting with United last weekend due to a groin injury, only for the French striker to play the full 90 minutes and score his side’s goal.
Mourinho joked Arsenal’s medical team had performed an “amazing” feat by turning Lacazette “from a no to a complete 90 minutes”.
Silva, meanwhile, has been left out of City’s squad for their game at Shakhtar Donetsk due to an unspecified injury, with Guardiola saying he does not know if the Spaniard will be fit for Sunday’s trip to Old Trafford.
One player unlikely to feature for United against City is left-back Luke Shaw, who has been frozen out by Mourinho but produced an enterprising display on his return to the starting XI against CSKA.
“Very positive performance, especially with the ball going forward,” Mourinho said of the England international.
“Really dangerous, creating a lot, great intensity in his game. No surprise that in minute 80 he’s feeling the consequences of that intensity. It’s normal – first match of the season for him.”