Manchester United 2-0 Benfica: Champions League – as it happened

United are on the verge of qualification for the knockout stage after a solid win over Benfica.

Jamie Jackson's match report

FULL TIME: Manchester United 2-0 Benfica

And that’s that! United did enough to see off a much-improved Benfica in a highly entertaining game. They’ve not quite made it to the knockout stage yet, CSKA Moscow having won in Basel, but they’re as good as there, having claimed 12 points out of 12 so far and requiring just one more to get through. A good night’s work for Jose Mourinho, who throws a friendly arm around his opposite number Rui Vitoria and wanders off to warm applause. Seems the home support enjoyed that, just as he’d hoped. Benfica, for the record, are out.

Jose Mourinho walks off at the end of the match.
Jose Mourinho walks off at the end of the match. Photograph: Jason Cairnduff/Action Images/Reuters


90 min: Blind and Douglas slam into each other in the 1970s style. No holds barred, no quarter given. Ooyah, oof. That will have hurt. But there are no histrionics, and both men are quickly up and about again.

89 min: Jonas channels his inner Jim Baxter, playing keepy-uppy to the left of the United goal. He eventually gets fed up and flicks a cross towards Salvio, on the right-hand corner of the six-yard box. Salvio rises to bang a header on goal, but de Gea claims without too much fuss. Lovely skill from Jonas, though. It’s been a very entertaining match, from start to finish.

87 min: Salvio skitters with purpose down the right, reaches the byline, and slams a low cross through the six-yard box. Seferovic didn’t anticipate in the middle. Bailly hacks out for a corner, and nothing comes of the set piece.

86 min: Mkhitaryan splits Benfica in two with a glorious pass down the inside-left channel. Rashford is in space at the left-hand corner of the box. He squares a pass for Lukaku, who winds up to shoot first time. The effort is blocked. Nothing quite going Lukaku’s way right now.

84 min: Rashford goes for goal, 30 yards up the left wing. Ambitious. But to be fair, he’s earned the right.

82 min: That CSKA Moscow goal means United still need a point to qualify. Meanwhile a corner for Benfica which very nearly ends up with Rashford skating off towards goal from the halfway line. But not quite.

80 min: Jonas comes on for Pizzi. And here’s a scoreline: CSKA have turned it around in Basel, and they’re now leading 2-1!

GOAL! Manchester United 2-0 Benfica (Blind 78 pen)

Lukaku prepares to tee up the ball and take the kick. Herrera takes the ball off him and shapes to take responsibility himself. Finally Blind snatches it off Herrera, and lashes a simple one down the middle. Slightly farcical scenes, but United will care not a jot: they’ll be in the knockout stages tonight unless Moscow find a winner in Basel.

Daley Blind slots home the penalty.
Daley Blind slots home the penalty. Photograph: Michael Steele/Getty Images


Penalty to Manchester United!

77 min: Rashford makes an instant impact. He zips past Samaris, enters the area, beats Ruben Dias on the outside, and is then clattered by Samaris, coming back for more. Happy 20th birthday to this amazing young man!

Benfica’s Andreas Samaris fouls Marcus Rashford to concede a penalty.
Benfica’s Andreas Samaris fouls Marcus Rashford to concede a penalty. Photograph: Jason Cairnduff/Action Images/Reuters


75 min: Both teams make a change. Seferovic replaces Jimenez for Benfica; the excellent Martial makes way for the birthday boy Rashford.

73 min: McTominay makes his way into the box from the right, but can’t quite get a shot away. He’s been impressive this evening. Benfica go up the other end, Salvio getting better down the inside-right channel and earning a corner off Blind (even if it looked as though he had the last touch). Fortunately for fans of all that’s right and proper, the dodgy corner comes to nothing.

71 min: Lukaku wanders in off the right flank and exchanges passes with Mkhitaryan on the edge of the box. He’s free in the box, but his chipped shot is turned round the post by Svilar, who was quickly up in the striker’s grille. And Lukaku is miles offside anyway. Sad thing is, looking at the replay, Mkhitaryan’s pinged pass was for Martial, who was coming through the middle and was very much onside. But Lukaku took the shot on. Martial throws his hands in the air, a picture of frustration.

69 min: Mkhitaryan strides down the middle of the pitch in the proactive style. It’s a barnstorming run. He’s tugged back by Salvio in the most cynical fashion. That Adidas fabric doesn’t half stretch. Salvio is booked, and doesn’t bother complaining.

67 min: United have lost control of the midfield, and Mourinho has seen enough. Mata is replaced by Herrera. Meanwhile CSKA have equalised in Basel: it’s 1-1. As things stand, United are still going through tonight.

66 min: Benfica started this half slowly, but they’re fully in the game again now. They’re dominating possession. And they’ve unnerved United. Bailly plays a preposterous square ball towards Smalling, 30 yards from goal. Jimenez nips in to steal it, and curls a shot past de Gea and onto the outside of the left-hand post! Goal kick. The margins have been fine tonight.

64 min: Benfica make a change. Eliseu comes on for Grimaldo.

62 min: Jimenez races down the inside-right channel and threatens to break clear of Bailly. The defender does very well to hold him up, and pushes him out towards the right wing. Jimenez, who had been hopeful of getting a shot away, settles for a deep cross towards Pizzi. It’s no good. United were light at the back there; a chance spurned by the visitors.

60 min: Plenty of Benfica possession. A good couple of minutes’ worth in the United half. Pass, pass, passity, pass. And suddenly Goncalves spins away from Smalling down the inside-right channel and threads a shot towards the bottom left. It’s on target, and it looks like it’s going in, but de Gea somehow fingertips it round the post at full stretch. What a shot, and a save to match! The corner comes to nought.

Benfica’s Diogo Goncalves fires in a shot.
Benfica’s Diogo Goncalves fires in a shot. Photograph: Darren Staples/Reuters


57 min: Jimenez drops a shoulder, 20 yards from goal, shifting gently from left to right and curling one towards the bottom right. The unflappable de Gea is behind it all the way.

55 min: So having given Martial the big sell, he gets into a couple of decent positions down the left and messes both of them up in spectacular style. First he breaks clear from a Benfica thicket only to wildly slash an effort into the Stretford End. Then he’s sent scampering into the box by Lukaku, but instead of taking a shot from a similar position to his game-winning one against Spurs the other day, tries to beat Ruben Dias with a trick on the outside. The ball clanks off his shin and out of play.

53 min: Benfica were bright and impressive in the first period; they’re not on it in the second so far. Goncalves tries to get something moving with a power dribble down the left, cutting inside and shaping to shoot, but he hesitates and the chance to get something sailing goalwards is gone.

51 min: Martial opens Benfica up down the right with a delicious little backheel. Darmian goes romping towards the byline, then cuts back for Mata, who lashes wildly over. Martial has been the best player on the pitch by a country mile.

49 min: All a little bit scrappy since the restart. The travelling Benfica fans sound like they’re enjoying themselves, despite the scoreline.

47 min: Martial makes another determined run down the left, and slips the ball inside for Lukaku, who has options around him, or a chance to advance on the box and shoot. He takes a heavy touch and loses possession. A slight groan from the Old Trafford faithful. Nothing major, but you can bet Jose’s ears pricked up.

You want second-half action? We got second-half action! Benfica get the ball rolling again. United have replaced Lingard, who injured his ribs early in that first half, with Mkhitaryan.

HALF TIME: Manchester United 1-0 Benfica

The whistle goes for the end of the first half. The unfortunate Svilar allows himself a wry smile as he walks off to the dressing room, then looks up at the heavens in a semi-accusatory manner. You can hardly blame him. But United won’t care, and nor should they: they have a precious lead! And with Basel leading CSKA 1-0 at half time, they’re closing in on a place in the knockout stage!

45 min +1: A deflated Benfica allow Lukaku to burst through the middle, clear on goal! He looks to gently lift the ball over Svilar, who gets in the way magnificently, the ball sailing out for a corner. A wonderful save to add to his bittersweet collection.

GOAL! Manchester United 1-0 Benfica (Svilar og 45)

Another nightmare for the young keeper, though he can’t be blamed for this. Matic, 25 yards out, extends a long leg and lashes a pearler towards the bottom right. Svilar has it covered if it’s on target. But it’s not. The ball hits the base of the right-hand post, out onto the fully-extended Svilar’s back, and into the net. Svilar has been excellent this half; he’ll be wondering what he’s done to deserve this! Great shot from Matic, mind.

Nemanja Matic fires in the shot that results in the own goal by Mile Svilar.
Nemanja Matic fires in the shot that results in the own goal by Mile Svilar. Photograph: Martin Rickett/PA
Matic celebrates after Svilar’s own goal.
Matic celebrates after Svilar’s own goal. Photograph: Martin Rickett/PA


44 min: Martial bursts down the left and earns a corner off a panting Salvio. Blind takes. Smalling fouls. Mourinho stands on the touchline frowning enigmatically.

42 min: Lukaku bustles through the middle of the park and lays off to Martial on the left, just inside the Benfica area. Martial’s first touch isn’t all that, forcing him further to the left, and he blazes hysterically over the bar.

40 min: Lingard has a crack from the edge of the Benfica box. It’s deflected and looks like going out for a corner, well wide to the right of goal. But Svilar sprints to make up loads of ground, and saves the ball going out for the set piece. After his nightmare in Lisbon, it’s going pretty well this week for the young man.

38 min: Martial’s been United’s star turn so far this evening. He’s been an effervescent presence down the left. Once again he runs at Benfica with purpose and extreme prejudice, beating one man, then another. He’s into the box, and if he gets round Ruben Dias, he’ll be through on goal. But the defender does well to get a touch on the ball, and Martial runs it out of play for a goal kick. But here’s a player who looks as though he’s slowly getting back to his best. He’s very exciting to watch when he’s in this mood.

37 min: Salvio latches onto a loose ball in the midfield; Old Trafford groans a little. The home side haven’t quite clicked yet tonight. Salvio threatens to break into the box, but he’s stopped by a determined McTominay, which cheers the faithful right up.

35 min: A fine mist suddenly rolls in. Manchester United’s desire is to score; Mata and Lukaku combine crisply down the inside right. Mata breaks into the box, and his snap shot, meant for the top right, is deflected out for a corner. But United don’t get that corner.

The Benfica fans set off a flare in the stands.
The Benfica fans set off a flare in the stands. Photograph: Jason Cairnduff/Action Images/Reuters


33 min: For the first time this evening, the game gets a little scrappy and shapeless. Hey, everyone deserves a breather, they’ve put on quite a free-flowing show so far.

31 min: Lukaku has been quiet, but he twists and turns down the inside-right channel and carves out a shooting opportunity from bugger all. He fizzes it towards the bottom right and it’s well tipped round the post by Svilar. Nothing comes of the corner, but United soon come straight back at Benfica, Martial romping down the left and crossing for Lukaku, who leaning back heads a slightly-too-high ball over the bar from six yards. The big man suddenly sparking into life.

29 min: Martial nearly shimmies past three challenges down the United left, with a view to breaking clear towards the box. One man too many, but what a ball-on-string run that was for a while. Then Benfica go up the other end, playing some pretty triangles along the way. Salvio has a dig from the edge of the box, but it’s blocked.

27 min: And it would appear Lingard has been booked as well, for re-entering the field of play after his injury with out permission. This match has been highly eventful, and a lot of fun. The denizens of Old Trafford want entertainment; well, they’re getting it, one way or another.

25 min: Bailly is booked for a common-or-garden trip on Grimaldo, who was looking to break into a little space on the left from deep.

24 min: McTominay and Mata combine, the latter breaking into the box on the right. Mata’s face is soon introduced to the turf, Fejsa knocking into his back. If the Bailly-Pizzi incident should have been a penalty, that one ticks the box too. But the referee again gives nothing. At least he’s consistent.

22 min: Lingard is getting some treatment, in a lot of pain after receiving an accidental elbow in the ribs from Samaris. He’ll continue for now, but doesn’t look awfully comfortable.

20 min: Benfica look in the mood tonight. Salvio embarks on the sort of dribble Eusebio would have been proud of, spinning and twirling his way down the inside-right channel past three half-arsed United challenges. He then lays off for Pizzi, whose shot from the edge of the box is blocked at source. The ball breaks to Jimenez on the penalty spot, but the striker’s offside.

18 min: Goncalves cuts in from the left wing and sends a rising screamer towards the top right. It’s the sweetest of strikes, and the most spectacular of saves by the ever-astonishing David de Gea! He manages to tip the ball round the post when all looked lost for United, and the scoreline, super-improbably, is still 0-0.

15 min: Martial misses it! He sends a poor dribbler towards the bottom left. Svilar reads it well, and palms it round the post! What a difference two weeks make for the young keeper!

Mile Svilar saves Anthony Martial’s penalty.
Mile Svilar saves Anthony Martial’s penalty. Photograph: Michael Steele/Getty Images


Penalty to Manchester United!

14 min: And now there’s a penalty to United up the other end! Martial wriggles into the area from the left. Douglas gets his body in the way, then falls over and clanks his hand on the ball. The ref points to the spot. Benfica are livid, given the non-decision up the other end. It’s a soft one, for sure, but soft ones are penalties too.

Anthony Martial is downed by Benfica’s Douglas. Penalty awarded.
Anthony Martial is downed by Benfica’s Douglas. Penalty awarded. Photograph: Darren Staples/Reuters


13 min: Pizzi goes down under a very meaty shoulder barge from Bailly, as he races into the box down the inside left channel. No penalty, though you’ve seen them given, certainly often as a foul elsewhere on the pitch. Just a suggestion that Bailly caught him in the back as opposed to from the side.

11 min: Benfica keep United pressed back, and Raul Jimenez tries an overhead kick, latching onto a right-wing cross. Full marks for ambition, if nothing else.

10 min: Some more pretty Benfica passing. Douglas very nearly breaks into the box down the inside-right channel, but McTominay does just enough to put him off. More luck than judgement, perhaps, as he was falling backwards at the time, but you do what you have to do. Just for a split second, though, Benfica had worked a small gap in the famous Jose Mourinho defence.

8 min: It’s a nice open start, this. Benfica stroke the ball hither and yon, and suddenly the late arrival Samaris has space to shoot, 25 yards from goal. He fizzes a fierce low shot inches wide of the bottom-left corner. De Gea almost certainly had that covered, but a fine effort nonetheless.

7 min: Martial tries to whip one up over the wall and back down into the top left. He gets the up part correct. Miles wide and high of Svilar’s goal.

6 min: Martial, out on the left, turns on the jets and glides inside, shaping to shoot on the edge of the D. He’s upended cynically by Ruben Dias, who is rightly booked. This will be a free kick in a very dangerous position.

Anthony Martial is taken down by Benfica’s Ruben Dias.
Anthony Martial is taken down by Benfica’s Ruben Dias. Photograph: Darren Staples/Reuters


4 min: Lingard goes scampering through the middle, free of Benfica defenders! But he’s offside. Svilar isn’t to know that, though, and does very well to slide towards Lingard’s feet and knock the ball away from the striker. That will have taken guts, given what happened to him in the last match in Lisbon. A perfectly timed piece of goalkeeping.

3 min: The set piece is hoicked into the mixer, and hits Smalling in his trouser arrangement, six yards out. Ooyah, oof. For a second, it looks as though this unfortunate business has sent the ball into the top right, but de Gea has it covered easily enough and plucks it from the sky with a yawn.

2 min: Benfica ping it around a bit, getting used to the surroundings. And it’s a confident start, Douglas making good down the right and earning a corner off Blind.

And we’re off! Benfica have been forced into a late change to their starting XI; Filipe Augusto injured himself in the warm-up, so he’s replaced in the midfield by Andreas Samaris. Manchester United get the ball rolling. No other early drama.

The teams are out! Manchester United wear their famous red shirts. Benfica, who are partial to that colour of top as well, are forced into second-choice grey. The usual Uefa-sanctioned bombast quacks out of the PA system. We’ll be off in a minute!

Jose Mourinho speaks! “We have only three midfield players at this moment. We managed to give 60 mins rest to Nemanja Matic at Swansea; Ander Herrera has played every match, so it is time for him to have a break. Today is obviously a big match for Scott McTominay, but we believe in him and he is ready. The Chelsea game at the weekend is not on my mind at all; the important thing is to qualify for the Champions League and we are not there yet.”

He’s then asked if he expects the crowd to get behind his team. A non-committal shrug which suggests he’s said his piece in the programme notes and doesn’t fancy going over it again, not now anyway. “I don’t know. They normally are. We have enjoyed some good moments at Old Trafford and this season we are having good results, let’s see if we can continue that.”

Scott McTominay warms up before the match against Benfica.
Scott McTominay warms up before the match against Benfica. Photograph: Matthew Ashton/AMA/Getty Images


Manchester United make six changes to the side sent out against Tottenham at the weekend. Stepping down: Phil Jones, Ashley Young, Ander Herrera, Henrikh Mkhitaryan, Antonio Valencia and Marcus Rashford. Taking their places: Daley Blind, Matteo Darmian, Scott McTominay, Juan Mata, Jesse Lingard and Anthony Martial.

Benfica name the same side that took on United at the Estadio da Luz a fortnight ago, with the exception of the suspended Luisao. In comes captain Jardel. Rookie keeper Mile Svilar, whose debut didn’t exactly go to plan back there, is given another chance to showcase his talent. Here’s hoping that, whatever the result, the young man suffers no mishaps tonight and gives a good account of himself.

Benfica’s Mile Svilar warms up at Old Trafford.
Benfica’s Mile Svilar warms up at Old Trafford. Photograph: Darren Staples/Reuters


Tonight's teams

Manchester United: de Gea, Darmian, Bailly, Smalling, Blind, McTominay, Matic, Mata, Lingard, Martial, Lukaku.
Subs: Romero, Lindelof, Young, Rashford, Herrera, Mkhitaryan, Shaw.

Benfica: Svilar, Douglas, Jardel, Dias, Grimaldo, Pizzi, Fejsa, Filipe Augusto, Salvio, Jimenez, Goncalves.
Subs: Julio Cesar, Lopez, Samaris, Jonas, Seferovic, Eliseu, Cervi.

Referee: Gediminas Mazeika (Lithuania).

United Review: A beaming Jose Mourinho welcomes the paying punters to Old Trafford in his own inimitable style.

Welcome to matchday four in Group A ...

... which could see Manchester United book their place in the knockout phase in quick order. They’ll make it to the Round of 16 if they beat Portuguese giants Benfica here tonight, and CSKA Moscow fail to beat second-placed Basel in the group’s other game.

United are odds-on to complete their half of the deal. They saw off Benfica easily enough in Lisbon a couple of weeks ago, thanks to Marcus Rashford’s speculative free kick and Mile Svilar’s egregious error. While United have won all three of their Group A matches to date, Benfica have lost every single one of theirs, including a 5-0 defeat in Basel which stands as their worst-ever Champions League thumping.

And of course United historically have Benfica’s number. They’ve won seven of their ten meetings with the Eagles, a run which began with an 8-3 aggregate victory in the quarters of the 1965-66 European Cup, George Best, El Beatle, all that. Plus the small matter of the 1968 final, a glorious 4-1 extra-time romp for Matt Busby’s team, though it could easily have ended 2-1 to Benfica had Eusébio kept his head towards the end of normal time and slotted home when one on one with Alex Stepney.

That was some sliding-doors moment. It would have been Benfica’s third European Cup. Instead they’re still waiting for their next international success. United by comparison have since racked up six European titles plus another two on the world stage. Oh Eusébio!

Kick off: 7.45pm GMT.