UEFA Europa League Group A
Zorya Luhansk vs. Manchester United
Venue: Chornomorets Stadium
Date: Thursday, 10 December 2016
Kick-off: 18:00 GMT
Manchester United sealed their place in this season’s Europa League knockout stage with a comfortable 2-0 victory away at Zorya Luhansk.
It was a fixture for Jose Mourinho’s summer signings, as Henrikh Mkhitaryan’s solo strike shortly after the break gave the visitors the lead, before Paul Pogba played in Zlatan Ibrahimovic to seal the match late on.
Eric Bailly soldiered on to complete the full 90 on his return from injury after one-and-a-half months out, despite picking up a knock midway through the second period, looking solid throughout.
Despite the lack of possession, it was Zorya who created the first real chance of the game, as Ihor Kharatin’s low shot was palmed clear by Sergio Romero, and Ivan Petryak struck the rebound into the side netting.
Ander Herrera’s tame volley was held, Pogba’s left-footed effort fell just wide before the two combined as Pogba headed over from the former’s cross.
Oleksandar Karavayev volleyed wide himself, as Bailly’s speculative overhead attempt bounced before being held by Ihor Levchenko.
Captain Wayne Rooney saw a shot held before his fierce drive from range was tipped over, with Marcos Rojo firing over from the resulting corner as half-time arrived on a cold Eastern European night.
Barely had the restart commenced before slack play on halfway allowed Mkhitaryan to nip the ball away from Karavayev, before his mazy dribble towards goal was rounded off by a slotted finish into the bottom corner.
Ibrahimovic saw a powerful strike held as Romero showed his ability, keeping his concentration despite seeing little action, turning away Mikhail Sivakov’s glancing header from a deep free-kick.
A free-kick at the other end saw Marouane Fellaini head over from Mkhitaryan’s delivery, as a venomous attempt fell over from Ibrahimovic’s right boot.
He did book his name on the scoresheet not long later, as Pogba’s exemplary through ball was met by the perfectly-timed run of the Swede, before bearing down on goal and slotting a finish not too dissimilar from the first.
There was time for the veteran to play a neat one-two with substitute Timothy Fosu-Mensah, as the latter was denied at the near post via a smart Levchenko save, as full-time brought to a close the group stage.
Despite finishing second in the group, United secured their place in Monday’s Round of 32 draw, in a competition that could now have extra significance given the stuttering league form, with the winners guaranteed a place in next season’s Champions League.
Regardless of any priority, the Europa League will now be put to bed until February, allowing focus to shift towards domestic matters ahead of a busy festive period.
Three league games in six days begins with the visit of Tottenham Hotspur at 2:15pm on Sunday, a side directly above United, with a six point gap the distance between the clubs.
If tonight’s positive display can continue, then there will be hope of narrowing that gap.
Manchester United: Romero; Young, Bailly, Rojo, Blind; Herrera, Pogba; Mata (Lingard 65), Rooney (Fellaini 70), Mkhitaryan (Fosu-Mensah 85); Ibrahimovic.
Subs not used: De Gea, Jones, Martial, Rashford.
Manager: Jose Mourinho
Zorya: Levchenko; Opanasenko, Forster, Sukhotskyi; Karavayev, Kharatin (Grechyshkin 57), Chaykovskyi; Petryak, Ljubenovic (Lipartia 72), Bezborodko (Dennis 54).
Subs not used: Shevchenko, Kulach, Paulinho, Checher.
Manager: Yuriy Vernydub