Manchester United made a winning start to the 2018/19 UEFA Champions League campaign, by registering an impressive 3-0 away win over in-form Swiss champions Young Boys.
Paul Pogba produced a captain’s display and scored twice in the first half to give the Reds a commanding lead by half-time, before Jose Mourinho’s men went on to secure what is undoubtedly an excellent victory in the second half thanks to a goal from another Frenchman, Anthony Martial.
The result on Wednesday evening capped a wholly positive trip to Switzerland, after Nicky Butt’s talented Under-19s also registered a gutsy 2-1 comeback victory over Young Boys in the UEFA Youth League.
Winning away from home in the Champions League is never easy and especially at venues like the 32,000-seat Stade de Suisse, where the fervent Young Boys supporters unveiled a massive mosaic banner as the teams walked out for kick-off, as well as a giant surfer flag of a bear holding the European Cup, complete with two red smoking flares for eyes.
On the pitch, Jose Mourinho had made five changes to his starting XI and gave an official debut to Diogo Dalot, the summer signing who arrived from FC Porto with an injury and had twice appeared for the Under-23s at Old Trafford before this Champions League encounter.
The Portuguese right-back played well and showed off his pace when bombing up the flank on the overlap, as well as his defensive nous as the Reds soaked up some early pressure from the hosts. Indeed, Young Boys controlled the opening exchanges and David De Gea was forced to make a smart save on 16 minutes, when tipping a vicious 20-yard strike from Mohamed Ali Camara over the bar.
United settled into the game thereafter and Marcus Rashford, recalled to the side and playing on the right flank, flashed an acute effort just wide of the brilliantly-named David von Ballmoos' right-hand post.
The deadlock was soon broken, on 35 minutes, when captain Pogba showed his quality with a left-footed shot that soared into the top corner from the edge of the box. The Frenchman’s effort was greeted with huge cheers from the away end, where 1,636 travelling Reds were sent into raptures.
The decibel count only increased eight minutes later when the visitors were awarded a penalty. German referee Deniz Aytekin decided that Luke Shaw's cross had been handled by Kevin Mbabu and United's powerful no.6 duly dispatched his spot-kick into the net, doubling our lead and his tally for the night.
A death blow was then dealt on 65 minutes when Martial’s right-footed shot from inside the area took a small deflection to find the back of the net, prompting his ever-popular terrace anthem to boom out of the away end with great enthusiasm. It was the Frenchman’s first goal of the season.
Mourinho sent substitutes Marouane Fellaini, Juan Mata and Andreas Pereira into the action shortly after the third goal, removing Rashford, Fred and Pogba respectively, as the manager’s mind possibly turned to Saturday’s big Premier League match against Wolverhampton Wanderers at Old Trafford.
Mata almost got on the scoresheet, too, when he connected with Shaw’s thunderous cross from the left wing, but the Spanish forward’s effort unfortunately flew narrowly wide of the left-hand post, in the last meaningful piece of attacking action from a thoroughly-enjoyable 3-0 victory.
Elsewhere in Champions League Group H, Juventus secured a valuable 2-0 away win at Valencia, but their success came at a hefty cost after Cristiano Ronaldo was sent off for an off-the-ball incident. The Portuguese star will be suspended, and if the duration is set at three games, he will miss the two clashes with his former club United.
Young Boys: Von Ballmoos, Mbebu, Camara, Von Bergen, Benito, Fassnacht (Moumi Ngamaleu 65), Sow (Aebischer 59), Sanogo, Sulejmani, Hoarau (Nsame 75), Assale.
Subs not used: Wolfli, Bertone, Schick, Garcia.
United: De Gea, Dalot, Smalling, Lindelof, Shaw, Fred (Fellaini 69), Matic, Pogba (Pereira 75), Rashford (Mata 69), Lukaku, Martial.
Subs not used: Romero, Bailly, Young, Alexis.