Paul Pogba scored twice as Manchester United opened their Champions League Group H campaign with a comfortable win over Young Boys in Bern.
Linking with Brazilian Fred, Pogba was inventive and precise for his first goal, checking on to his left foot and finding the top left corner from 18 yards.
The France midfielder then doubled his tally with a penalty after home defender Kevin Mbabu was judged to have handled Luke Shaw’s cross.
Anthony Martial, recalled at the expense of Alexis Sanchez, added the gloss midway through the second period with a strike that deflected past Young Boys goalkeeper David von Ballmoos.
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Until Pogba’s intervention, the hosts had enjoyed the better of the play as Jose Mourinho’s side struggled for fluency on the Swiss side’s artificial pitch.
Buoyed by the constant singing and drumming of their passionate supporters, Young Boys’ former Paris St-Germain forward Guillaume Hoarau headed wide early on.
And United goalkeeper David de Gea also impressively tipped efforts from Mohamed Ali Camara and Christian Fassnacht over the bar.
Yet the visitors, who had earlier clipped the post through Marcus Rashford, settled after Pogba’s contribution.
Juan Mata twice had chances to add to the score for last season’s Premier League runners-up, who enjoyed their first Champions League victory in Switzerland since Ruud van Nistelrooy and Ole Gunnar Solskjaer scored in a 3-1 win in Basel 16 years ago.
Pogba the leader
When Manchester United re-signed Paul Pogba for a then world-record transfer fee of £89m in 2016, it was to deliver match-winning contributions on the grandest stages.
But two-goal contributions of this nature, or performances where he has carried his team-mates with him, have been sporadic.
The French World-Cup winning midfielder scored twice against Turkish side Fenerbahce in his first season back at Old Trafford.
But he then had to wait almost 18 months before repeating that feat when delaying Manchester City’s Premier League title parade in a 3-2 win last April.
Adding consistency and honing his role in Mourinho’s side have so far proved challenging for the midfielder who spent four years at Juventus in the altogether different environment of Serie A.
However, there are signs that he is now starting to embrace greater responsibility.
Following on from strong showings against Burnley and Watford, this was a true captain’s performance.
It brought two goals, an assist for Martial, and just as importantly, a concentrated effort to retain possession, with 93% of his passes finding their intended target.
Young Boys pay for profligacy
Young Boys will rightly feel the scoreline flattered United on their return to European football’s elite competition after a 31-year absence.
But while they have scored 19 goals in six domestic matches, storming to the summit of the Swiss Super League and establishing an eight-point gap, the visit of United proved a step up in class.
Gerardo Seoane’s side could not be faulted for effort though – fashioning 18 attempts on goal to United’s 16.
At least three of those could have resulted in goals but ultimately did not possess the individual class of a Pogba – whose composure and accuracy brought the opening goal – or the excellence of visiting goalkeeper De Gea.
The Spaniard saved all four of the hosts’ shots on target and alongside Pogba ensured that they paid for their profligacy.
Man of the match – Paul Pogba (Man Utd)
‘Job done’ – what they said:
Manchester United manager Jose Mourinho, speaking to BT Sport: “Job done. Not phenomenal but good enough. They were intense, compact and had self-esteem. Then after the first goal, the game was under control. We tried to score the goals that gave us the stability for the second half.
“It is important for us to win because probably every team is going to get six points against Young Boys. Now we have two important matches against Valencia and Juventus. They are very good opponents.”
On the home side’s artificial pitch: “There was probably some fears of injuries. I had some players who were feeling sore after training yesterday. People are more used to playing on great surfaces in England. The football is much more beautiful that way.
“Now the game is over, I can say I don’t understand how you can play the best club football on an artificial pitch.”
Man Utd’s biggest away win for five years – the stats
- Following a run of five winless matches away from home in the Champions League, Manchester United have now won three of their past five such games in the competition (D1, L1).
- Manchester United have recorded their biggest away win in the Champions League without conceding a goal since November 2013, when they beat Bayer Leverkusen 5-0 under David Moyes.
- Excluding qualifiers, Young Boys have lost two of their past three home games in European competition (W1), as many defeats as in their previous 10 such matches combined.
- Only one of the nine Swiss managers to take charge of a Champions League match for the very first time have won their opening game in the competition (D1, L7), Murat Yakin beating Chelsea while in charge of FC Basel back in September 2013.
- Paul Pogba has scored his first Champions League goal for Manchester United, and his first in the competition since March 2016 (against Bayern Munich for Juventus).
- Pogba scored as many goals in the Champions League in the opening 45 minutes against Young Boys (two) as he did in his previous 37 matches in the competition combined.
- David De Gea has now registered 14 clean sheets for Manchester United in the Champions League, moving level with Fabien Barthez. Edwin van der Sar (28) is the only goalkeeper to have managed more for the club in the competition.