Match ends, Manchester United 1, CSKA Moscow 0.
Wayne Rooney's late header secured Manchester United victory over CSKA Moscow and top spot in Champions League Group B at a nervy Old Trafford.
Only an excellent David de Gea save and Chris Smalling's last-ditch block had prevented Seydou Doumbia putting the visitors ahead a minute earlier.
Rooney's winner was his 237th United goal and moved him joint-second with Denis Law in the club's all-time goalscorers' list.
It was their first goal in 404 minutes.
Louis van Gaal's side are a point clear at the top of the group with two matches left after Wolfsburg, who had led the standings before kick-off, were beaten 2-0 at PSV Eindhoven.
While United's manager will feel his tactical decisions were vindicated by his side's early promise, with Rooney and Anthony Martial in tandem up front and renewed energy after the second-half introduction of Marouane Fellaini, the crowd booed and called for more attacking intent at several points.
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Plan A fails
After their three successive goalless draws, Paul Scholes and Andrei Kanchelskis - two of the most thrilling attackers Old Trafford have seen in recent times - had criticised the lack of creativity in Van Gaal's side.
The manager had reacted in prickly fashion, but his decision to liberate Martial from the left wing and play him up alongside Rooney as a second striker spoke volumes.
Rooney enjoyed the company, dropping deep to set up a chance for Jesse Lingard with a neat reverse ball.
Full-back Marcos Rojo meanwhile provided the hosts' width, sending over a barrage of crosses from the left as his team-mates channelled play down his flank.
But United's early momentum slowed and the half ended with the crowd urging their side to attack more, as optimism turned to tension.
Fans rebel against Van Gaal change
In the 66th minute, Van Gaal changed to a tactic he has insisted will never be "normal" as Fellaini came on to bolster the attack in place of Martial.
The decision drew jeers from the Old Trafford crowd, chants of Martial's name and more pleas for attacking football.
They were not alone in questioning Van Gaal's judgement - BBC Radio 5 live analyst Pat Nevin described the removal of Martial as "a shocker".
However, Fellaini's presence seemed to revive flagging United belief and unsettle CSKA's defenders.
When Lingard volleyed Michael Carrick's long pass back into the box it was the familiar head of Rooney - rather than the distinctive one of Fellaini - that met it to prevent his side going four games without scoring for the first time since 1992.
CSKA threaten repeat Manchester raid
Almost a year ago to the day, CSKA had plunged Manchester City's Champions League campaign into peril with a 2-1 win across the city at the Etihad.
With star striker Doumbia - who scored both of the goals in that win - left on the bench the Russian side initially looked unlikely to repeat such a heist.
But the Ivorian's arrival after 55 minutes added an attacking edge and brought the visitors out of their shell. A game which had been comfortable for United up until that point suddenly started to change.
Doumbia should have added to a superb Champions League scoring record of 13 goals in 18 games, but De Gea and Smalling combined brilliantly to deny him and, just a minute later, Rooney struck the winner.
Man of the match: Jesse Lingard
Manchester United, fourth in the Premier League table, play West Brom at home on Saturday in their final match before an international break.
- 1de Gea
- 31SchweinsteigerSubstituted forHerreraat 89'minutes
- 8MataSubstituted forDepayat 74'minutes
- 9MartialSubstituted forFellainiat 66'minutes
- 2Figueira Fernandes
- 42SchennikovBooked at 20mins
- 10DzagoevSubstituted forPanchenkoat 85'minutes
- 3WernbloomBooked at 60mins
- 7TosicSubstituted forGolovinat 75'minutes
- 66NatchoSubstituted forDoumbiaat 55'minutes
- Szymon Marciniak
- Shots on Target
Second Half ends, Manchester United 1, CSKA Moscow 0.
Attempt missed. Memphis Depay (Manchester United) right footed shot from outside the box is high and wide to the left from a direct free kick.
Memphis Depay (Manchester United) wins a free kick in the attacking half.
Foul by Sergei Ignashevitch (CSKA Moscow).
Attempt saved. Alexei Berezutski (CSKA Moscow) header from the centre of the box is saved in the bottom right corner. Assisted by Sergei Ignashevitch with a cross.
Corner, CSKA Moscow. Conceded by Marcos Rojo.
Foul by Marouane Fellaini (Manchester United).
Pontus Wernbloom (CSKA Moscow) wins a free kick in the attacking half.
Ashley Young (Manchester United) wins a free kick in the defensive half.
Foul by Aleksandr Golovin (CSKA Moscow).
Substitution, Manchester United. Ander Herrera replaces Bastian Schweinsteiger.
Attempt missed. Pontus Wernbloom (CSKA Moscow) right footed shot from outside the box misses to the left. Assisted by Ahmed Musa.
Substitution, CSKA Moscow. Kirill Panchenko replaces Alan Dzagoev.
Offside, Manchester United. Marcos Rojo tries a through ball, but Wayne Rooney is caught offside.
Offside, Manchester United. David de Gea tries a through ball, but Marouane Fellaini is caught offside.
Foul by Marouane Fellaini (Manchester United).
Alan Dzagoev (CSKA Moscow) wins a free kick in the defensive half.
Corner, Manchester United. Conceded by Igor Akinfeev.
Attempt saved. Jesse Lingard (Manchester United) right footed shot from the right side of the box is saved in the top centre of the goal. Assisted by Wayne Rooney.