Zlatan Ibrahimovic snatches win after Manchester United struggle against Zorya Luhansk

Reuters

 

Europa League, Old Trafford – Manchester United 1 (Ibrahimovic 69) Zorya Luhansk 0.

Zlatan Ibrahimovic scored the only goal of the game as Manchester United laboured to victory against Zorya Luhansk in the Europa League.

The Swede headed home a scrappy goal in the 69th minute, with the relief palpable around Old Trafford, and the hosts held on for the three points.

It means United are off the mark in Group A after a 1-0 defeat to Feyenoord last time out, but fans left the ground with more questions than answers after a meek display.

The first half was very slow, with the sideways passing and the slow tempo very much reminiscent of Louis van Gaal’s tenure.

Marcus Rashford did thunder one effort against the crossbar, but United looked toothless, with their quest to better a woeful Europa League record of one win in their last eight in the competition looking like a distant dream.

The second half was no different, as Wayne Rooney was introduced to try and inject some urgency into the laboured hosts.

And, with what was remarkably United’s first shot on target, Ibrahimovic nodded in what proved to be the winner, with Rooney claiming a more than fortuitous assist.

TALKING POINT

Are the United players even interested in the Europa League? After such a stellar showing against Leicester at the weekend, many thought Zorya were in for a difficult night at Old Trafford, but United limped to a distinctly unimpressive victory. The enthusiasm was lacking, tempo was at walking pace and a willingness to over-exert was non-existent. These players are used to sitting at Europe’s top table, and anything else doesn’t seem to get their pulses racing.

MAN OF THE MATCH

Marcus Rashford. A tough one, with nobody really playing their best football, but Rashford did show glimpses of the pace and attacking intent that has made him an instant hit on the red half of Manchester. Unlucky not to score with thunderous effort.

PLAYER RATINGS

Manchester United: Romero 6, Fosu-Mensah 7, Bailly 6, Smalling 6, Rojo 4, Fellaini 4, Pogba 5,Lingard 4, Mata 5, Rashford 7, Ibrahimovic 6… Subs: Martial 5, Rooney 6.

Zorya Luhansk: Shevchenko 6, Sivakov 6, Chaykovskiy 6, Kamenyuka 6, Petriak 7, Kulach 5, Forster 7, Karavaev 6, Ljubenovic 6, Grechyshkin 6, Sobol 7… Subs: Gordiyenko 5, Lipartia 5, Paulinho 6.

Paul Pogba gave an underwhelming performance

Paul Pogba gave an underwhelming performanceReuters

KEY MOMENTS

5’ – CHANCE! And it is for the visitors. Neat play down the left plays in Ivan Petryak, who pulls it back to the onrushing Zeljko Ljubenovic, but he gets underneath it and fires well over. Food for thought for United.

19’ – CLOSE! Better from United as they work the ball well to Ibrahimovic. The Swede has an age to line the shot up, but it is deflected over. Oleksiy Shevchenko was scrambling across his goal to get to that as it looped over.

20’ – WOODWORK! Thunderous effort from Rashford comes down of the underside of the crossbar, bounces on the line and out. Corner from Mata had landed at the youngster’s feet on the edge of the box, and my word did he wallop that! So unlucky.

Manchester United's Wayne Rooney and Zlatan Ibrahimovic after the match

Manchester United’s Wayne Rooney and Zlatan Ibrahimovic after the matchReuters

49’ – CHANCE! Awful from Rojo, as he gives the ball away and fails to track back. Ball into the middle looks set for Ljubenovic, but he cannot stretch far enough to connect.

65’ – SAVE! First shot on target all game, and it is for the visitors! Paulinho curls one at goal, but Romero gets two hands to it and beats the ball away.

69’ – GOAL!!! Manchester United 1-0 Zorya Luhansk. Ibrahimovic heads opener, but it wasn’t pretty. They all count, especially in this situation, but United’s goal certainly had an element of fortune to it. Fosu-Mensah drilled a cutback at Rooney, who had dropped back into a good position, but the skipper couldn’t adjust himself quickly enough, the ball just bounced off him, into the ground, looped up into the air, and Ibrahimovic climbed highest to head into the net from close range.

85’ – CLOSE! From resulting corner, Rooney picks out Fellaini, who volleys over off his shin!

89’ – SAVE! Ibrahimovic curls it over the wall, but Shevchenko is across to save easily to his left.

KEY STATS

Paul Pogba made 107 successful passes against Zorya Luhansk; his most in a game for Manchester United.

Zlatan Ibrahimovic has now scored for seven different clubs in European competition.

Jose Mourinho hasn’t lost two successive European games since April 2013, when he was coach of Real Madrid.

MATCH IN A TWEET

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