Manchester United has confirmed their place in the last 16 of the Champions League for the first time since 2013-14 courtesy of a 2-1 victory over CSKA Moscow.
The Group A leaders were all but guaranteed a place in the knockout stages before kickoff, although they could have still mathematically – if not realistically – missed out in a three-way playoff with Basel and CSKA.
CSKA gave their own hopes of qualifying a boost when they took a surprise lead in controversial fashion through Vitinho on the stroke of half time, but they were ultimately condemned to Europa League football after Christmas as quick fire goals from Romelu Lukaku and Marcus Rashford turned things around in the second half.
The result also sees the hosts rack up a club record-equalling 40th consecutive home game without defeat across all competitions, including 11 wins from 11 at Old Trafford so far this season.
The visitors took a shock lead right on the stroke of half time, although the goal came in controversial fashion as the final touch came off the back of an offside Alan Dzagoev following Vitinho’s initial shot.
Confusion reigned after the ball had gone in as all eyes turned to the official, but the linesman appeared to rule that Daley Blind was playing Dzagoev onside despite having slid off the field moments before the final touch.
The situation then grew even more complicated as, having initially awarded the goal to Dzagoev, UEFA switched the scorer to Vitinho, who took the original shot after he had been found by Mario Fernandes’s cutback.
Mata’s hooked delivery was then sent glancing well wide by Chris Smalling before a powerful free kick from Rashford took a nick off the wall on its way behind, but United would not have to wait too much longer to turn the game on its head.
The equaliser came shortly after the hour mark when Lukaku registered just his second goal in his last 13 games for the club, skilfully steering Paul Pogba’s lofted pass beyond Akinfeev with the outside of his boot.
Just 66 seconds later another goal drought came to an end as Rashford found the back of the net for the first time since October, drilling a low finish across goal and into the bottom corner after being found by Mata.