Thursday 29 September 2016

Match report: United 1-0 Zorya Luhansk

United climbed off the bottom of Europa League Group A thanks to a Zlatan Ibrahimovic second-half header thaw saw off spirited Zorya. 

Despite a largely uninspiring performance against the Ukrainian minnows, Jose Mourinho's side earned the win they needed after Ibra nodded in substitute Wayne Rooney's mishit shot with 20 minutes to play.

United are considered to be among the favourites to go all the way in this year's competition but came into this one at the foot of the standings following a 1-0 reverse to Feyenoord in the opener.

It looked as though we would stay there as we toiled for more than hour despite dominating possession against the well-drilled and organised visitors.

But Zorya, on their European group stage debut, were undone inside two minutes of Rooney's introduction as the enterprising Tim Fosu-Mensah found the United and England captain who scuffed an untidy half- volley into the turf to tee up Ibrahimovic who bundled in.

The result lifted the Reds up to third, level on points with Feyenoord (who lost 1-0 in Fenerbahce), with the Turkish side the next opponents for us at Old Trafford on 20 October.

Zeljko Ljubenovic had an early effort blocked by Eric Bailly before the hosts went close twice in quick succession when Ibrahimovic had a shot deflected wide and Marcus Rashford then crashed against the crossbar with a stunning strike from distance. 

The recalled Marouane Fellaini should have done better with a header, Juan Mata also went close and Zorya full-back Rafael Forster stabbed wide of his own goal as the Reds upped the ante before the break.

Sergio Romero saved well from Paulinho and Oleksandr Karavaev's cross narrowly evaded the onrushing Ljubenovic in a brief spell of pressure from the revitalised visitors. 

That prompted Mourinho to introduce Rooney who made the decisive impact just moments after entering the fray when he skewed his effort into the path of Ibra who couldn't miss.

The goal- the Swede's sixth of the season since his summer signing- brought relief around Old Trafford and the hosts almost made sure of the win when Fellaini volleyed over in the dying minutes.

The away side had a late chance through Karavaev, but Romero saved comfortably and United held out to ensure a vital victory and seal a third consecutive win. 

Overall team performance: 6/10
United Faithful Man of the Match: Zlatan Ibrahimovic 

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