Manchester United are back where they belong in the Champions League after a 64 game campaign last year centred around reaching this very moment.
The anthem, the drama, the sheer grandeur of the whole affair and, of course, the tantalising prospect of reaching the very pinnacle of club football. There is nothing quite like it. But Jose Mourinho, following his side’s 2-2 draw with Stoke, will know his back four needs to offer that what was displayed over the weekend. Any team in this tournament can punish you.
All eyes will focus on Victor Lindelof on Tuesday night. The Swede, ever since that unconvincing display against Real Madrid, has only made the match-day squad once, with Mourinho insisting he needs time to settle in. He will receive his chance against the Swiss champions as Eric Bailly and Phil Jones serve the final game of their respective suspensions and the watching world will look closely to see whether Mourinho’s £31m man, along with Chris Smalling, can serve as a reliable alternative to the pair that struggled for composure at the Bet365 Stadium.
At the other end, Mourinho needs to stay true to what United have always done during successful Champions League campaign: overload the attack with speed and penetration. There is no point whatsoever in being cautious during these early stages. United need to make a statement. And with both Anthony Martial and Marcus Rashford in effervescent mood, giving the pair a chance to inflict damage from out wide with Henrikh Mkhitaryan – United’s key man in Europe last year – in the No.10 role.
And with that in mind, here is our predicted XI for the clash with Basel at Old Trafford on Tuesday night.