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Report: Zlatan Ibrahimovic the difference in lack lustre Europa League victory

Manchester United finished their second Europa League game with a sloppy 1-0 win against Ukrainian team Zorya Luhansk at Old Trafford. With a relatively strong team out against what seemed like weak opponents, United struggled to break down the 10 men behind the ball, failing to create many clear-cut chances. They had 72% possession but did very little with it. They now sit third in the group level with Feyenoord after they lost to Fenerbahce 1-0.

First 20 minutes or so brought to light the poorer side of United’s game, struggling to break down a smaller team and nearly getting caught out on the counter-attack. Pogba spreading the ball around nicely and both Rashford and Lingard looking to take on the wing-backs but no real substance. Twice United were caught out on the counter, firstly in the 8th minute when Fellaini was caught out of position and with a quick move from Petryak, he fed Ljubenovic who shot high over the bar.

Just before the 20-minute mark, Ibrahimovic was given space about 25 yards out, his shot was deflected and went out for a corner, the corner was flicked on by Pogba and on the half-volley, Rashford rattled the bar keeping the score at 0-0. During the next 15 minutes or so the game quieted down with only an Ibrahimovic free-kick that smashed into the wall to talk about. Mata headed over a good cross from Pogba but United were still yet to challenge the keeper. Up to that United didn’t threaten and went into half-time with the scores still level.

After the break, United came out pretty poorly, giving away the ball cheaply and a bad bit of play from Rojo allowed Kulach to break down the right and whip a cross into the box but United defended it well. A Fellaini shot, which was blocked, was the best United could manage up until the 55th minute where Fosu-Mensah and Lingard linked up well but Lingard’s low cross was dealt with well by Shevchenko. United struggled to create chances of any real substance. Zorya looked a well-organised team and came here with a clear plan, a draw would have been perfect. 65 minutes in and the Brazilian Paulinho for Zorya had a good shot saved from the edge of the box, Romero doing well going to his left. Wayne Rooney came on for Jesse Lingard in the 67th minute, forcing Mata out wide and Rooney slotting in at number 10.

He made an immediate impact for United, Fosu-Mensah broke down the right-hand side and crossed hard towards Rooney, who scuffed his shot into the ground and Ibrahimovic rose to nod the ball into the back of the net making it 1-0 to Manchester United with a little over 20 minutes to play. United gaining more and more confidence and looking more threatening. After 72 minutes, Young and Martial came on for Mata and Fosu-Mensah with Martial playing on the right-wing with Young tucking in behind at right-back.

On the 80 minute mark, Ibrahimovic had a shot cleared off the line after some good play from Martial but the Frenchman failed to keep the ball in play before crossing and the referee called the play back. United were looking comfortable on the ball, still pressing for another goal but getting caught out on the counter and Zorya had a couple of half-chances but nothing came of them. 88 minutes gone, Martial drives forward and is brought down, Zlatan takes the free-kick which is saved low down to the keeper’s left leaving the score at 1-0. When full-time whistle went, United fans looked almost relieved it was over and I can’t blame them. Poor performance all over but especially in the final third where they lacked a cutting edge.

Manchester United play Stoke on Sunday as they look to extend their winning streak to 4 games in all competitions and the fans will be hoping for something more like the Leicester game rather than this one.

Goals: Zlatan Ibrahimovic 69′

Assists: Wayne Rooney 69′

Manchester United: Romero; Fosu-Mensah (Martial 74′), Bailly, Smalling, Rojo; Fellaini, Pogba; Lingard (Rooney 67′), Mata (Young 74′), Rashford; Ibrahimovic

Substitutes Not Used: Johnstone; Memphis, Carrick, Schneiderlin

Bookings: Eric Bailly 63′

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