Manchester United spurned the chance to secure top spot in Group A of the Champions League and in theory give themselves an easier draw for the Round of 16 in the New Year, however they will get one last chance in which to make first place their own as they play host to CSKA Moscow later this evening.
Jose Mourinho’s men were dealt a late blow in Basel on Matchday 5 after conceding a last minute goal which saw the Swiss champions snatch all three points, the Red Devils only needed a point but they came away from the land of Toblerone with nothing to show for it.
They did however have something to show for their endeavour at the weekend after what was quite easily the best Premier League fixture this season. They traveled to the Emirates to face Arsenal and David De Gea may never have a game as good as the one he had on Saturday night.
The Spanish international dealt with no fewer than 33 shots that night and only one managed to breach his net, it was quite simply a phenomenal performance as United set themselves up very nicely for the Manchester derby this Sunday.
They will go into that game without Paul Pogba after his red card which was awarded for a stamp on Hector Bellerin, was it late or was it malicious? Whatever you make of it, the French international was shown his marching orders and will not feature at the weekend.
He will however be available to feature tonight as United look to get the job done that they should have completed a couple of weeks ago. Another player who will be in line for a start is Jesse Lingard after the England wide man has hit a purple patch of form.
The England international has scored three goals in his last two matches and although his celebrations are somewhat questionable there is no doubting his talent and the form he is at present, when the iron strikes hot then it is the kind of form that pushes for constant inclusion.
Zlatan Ibrahimovic did not feature at all on Saturday and could well be in line to use his European experience to get United over the line this evening as opponents CSKA Moscow look for a result that would see them sneak into second place in the group and the knockout phases.
They and Basle go into this game level on points with CSKA Moscow having the lesser head to head record between the two sides, they will have to hope that Portuguese champions Benfica can do them a favour and take points off Basle.
However Benfica are bottom of the group and have the worst attacking record in the competition in terms of shots vs goals so that could be a big ask, it could even mean the scenario that even if CSKA were to earn a surprise win this evening it may still not be enough to see them progress.
That said I don’t think there will be any surprises tonight as Manchester United will complete the outstanding task that being wrapping up top of the group and they will do so with all three points. The hope will be to get the job done early and then take the foot off the gas with Sunday in mind. Home win for me.
Here is what social media thinks will happen – you can still vote on the outcome
Time for some Champions League scientific polls now
— Dan Tracey (@dantracey1983) December 5, 2017