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Manchester United must replicate their performances in England on the European stage

Wednesday 27th September 2017
Manchester United's return to the Champions League was a long time coming, but after what feels like an eternity without them in the competition, they came back with a solid 3-0 win over Basel in their opening game. Had it not been for the untimely injury to Paul Pogba, one which is yet to resolve itself, it would have been the perfect night for Jose Mourinho's men.

Currently sitting top of Group A, United are level with Wednesday night's opponents CSKA Moscow in a game that is a huge opportunity to build a lead at the top of the table. If they can take three points, it will be a huge step for them as the trip to Russia is likely to prove their second toughest venture of their initial six games.

Their immediate victory in the Champions League has been much like their success in the league this season. Five wins from a possible six and one draw has seen them locked with City at the top, who have the exact same record but are top by virtue of their superior goal difference.

Irrespective of this, Mourinho will be incredibly pleased that his side have not dropped as many points as this time last campaign. Indeed, it is not a case of the Manchester side grinding their way to the top, they have actually been playing some very good football this season.
Romelu Lukaku has been in fine goalscoring form this term, while Nemanja Matic has controlled the midfield in a way that has taken United from a team that would miss out on the Champions League places via the league structure, to a side that are currently top of the Premier League and looking very good.

While they are yet to play anyone of note from the top five, they did dispatch Everton, before beating very stubborn sides in Southampton and Swansea. Their 2-2 draw with Stoke City was a minor blot on their copybook, but, honestly, a trip to play Mark Hughes' side is never easy.

While their Premier League campaign is going very well, Mourinho must now transfer that into their European conquest. They are undoubtedly amongst the favourites and, with the players at their disposal, they should be looking at the knock-out stages as the least they should achieve this season.

How can they do that though? It is a case of winning all of their home games before taking that outstanding defensive solidity and staying firm at the back while taking their chances up front when they are away from home. Some have questioned the style in which United played against Southampton, but without that arrogant creativity of Paul Pogba in the middle, they did struggle to keep the ball and set up attacks.

Once the Frenchman returns they will be that same top of the table team, which will be too much for most of the opponents they play. Mourinho has always been a master of taking a side and making it very strong at the back whilst also having the ability to outplay sides. He does, of course, lean towards more defensive play, but that is something United had been bereft of before his arrival.

Their form domestically must now be transferred onto the European stage. Manchester City and Tottenham have struggled to achieve this in the past, but the two are currently unbeaten in Europe this season, and, if United are serious about winning the Premier League and the Champions League, then they must harmonise their performances in both competitions.

Even though they have gone through a number of tough years, United have remained one of the world's biggest sides. Now, Mourinho has the chance, with a squad that is becoming world class, to repay the fans that have stayed faithful through some tough years.
Ben Darvill

I graduated with an upper second class degree in English and Creative writing from Cardiff Metropolitan University. I have been a freelance sports writer since leaving University and have written for a number of online websites. I am a Chelsea and England fan but I enjoy watching any team play as I have an intense passion for football.

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