2016/17 – UEFA Europa League – Zorya Luhansk – Away

Manchester United beat Zorya Luhansk 2-0 in the UEFA Europa League in Odessa on Thursday evening. Henrikh Mkhitaryan opened his account just after the start of the second half and a late strike by Zlatan Ibrahimovic, assisted by a stunning Paul Pogba pass, was all United need to ensure qualification into the next round of the secondary European competition. A place in the UEFA Champions League will be up for grabs for the winners of this tournament, with United needing to rely on that unless they better their league position in the coming weeks and months.

Jose Mourinho made six changes from the 1-1 draw against Everton at Goodison park at the weekend with Sergio Romero, Ashley Young, Eric Bailly, Daley Blind, Juan Mata and Wayne Rooney all returning to the side. United started the match brightly on a cold night in Odessa. United maintained possession for the opening minutes of the match, getting forward on one occasion with Zlatan Ibrahimovic waiting in the box. The chance did not come to fruition for United, though. Bailly, back from injury looked like he had not missed a day through injury in the opening stages of the match.

Zorya had their first opportunity to go ahead in the match around the ten-minute mark with Romero saving the first attempt and the second hitting the side netting. United needed to try and close the game down as early as possible, not that they were not trying to do that from the start of the match. Inside the twelfth minute, United looked great on the ball, on the attack, but lofted passes were easily dispossessed with United not really having a credible chance on goal. In the 17th minute of the match, Paul Pogba has a stunning effort on goal, but it was not on target, he was unmarked for his attempt.

With half an hour gone in the match and it was still 0-0, with both sides vying to take the lead – neither having the chance needed to change the game. Fenerbahçe took the lead in Rotterdam with them topping the group as it stood with United taking second place. Should the Turkish side win in the Netherlands, United would be through – win, lose or draw. Pogba had another chance to put United ahead in the match, this time from outside of the box, but his effort was off target. Pogba’s passing is great, though, the best passer at the club by far. United may seem frustrated with the Ukrainian’s most of the time playing all of their players behind the ball, seldom attacking.

United had their best chance of the half in the 36th minute of the match through Juan Mata, but his was wide of the goal, at a tough angle and he hit the outside of the post. United were still very dominant in the match, just needing that pinpoint chance to change the game. Eric Bailly had a chance on goal, a spectacular acrobatic effort, but it did not trouble the Zorya goalkeeper. Wayne Rooney had multiple chances on goal, but nothing was troubling the home side. Henrikh Mkhitaryan had to do a spot of defending in the closing stages of the first half, doing what was needed of him. Marcos Rojo ended the half with a speculative effort, 0-0 at the break.

United started the second half brightly with Mkhitaryan getting his first Manchester United goal with a stunning solo strike after picking the ball up in the middle of the Zorya half of the pitch. What a first goal to score for the Armenian. Mkhitaryan only minutes later tried to get a second goal for his club, crossing into the box, but it did not reach a teammate or threaten the home side. Zlatan Ibrahimovic nearly put United 2-0 up in Odessa, but his strike stung the hands of the goalkeeper, who kept the effort out of the net. United still dominant and still looking to put this game to sleep.

Zorya had a few bright spells on the attack in the second half of the match, nothing pressuring United. On the 65th minute of the match, Jesse Lingard replaced Juan Mata. In the 70th minute, Jose Mourinho made his second substitution with Marouane Fellaini replacing Wayne Rooney. Eric Bailly was down receiving treatment after a challenge and it looked as though he would be replaced also. Bailly was back on the pitch after a few minutes. Zorya nearly found an equaliser in the 73rd minute, but United made the clearance. In the 75th minute, Fellaini had a header on goal, which was just wide of the target. United were still dominating in large spells.

Timothy Fosu-Mensah was the third substitute of the match, replacing Mkhitaryan, the scorer of the opening goal in the 84’3 minute. Ahead of that, Ander Herrera was booked for a challenge. After the change, Paul Pogba put a sublime ball through for Ibrahimovic just inside the Zorya half, with the Swede scoring his 13th goal of the season, his second against the Ukrainian side this season. United were 2-0 up, with minutes remaining and surely into the knockout stages of the UEFA Europa League this season. United just needed to sit deep, maintain possession and wait for the final whistle. In the final moments of the match, Eric Bailly was booked for a challenge, which looked to be lucky as he reacted against the player after the challenge. The whistle was blown and United were through to the knockout stages of the UEFA Europa League, just like last season when they were eliminated from the UEFA Champions League.

Goals: Henrikh Mkhitaryan 48′, Zlatan Ibrahimovic 88′

Assists: Paul Pogba 88′

Manchester United: Romero; Young, Bailly, Rojo, Blind, Herrera, Pogba; Mata (Lingard 65′), Rooney (Fellaini 70′), Mkhitaryan (Fosu-Mensah 84′); Ibrahimovic

Substitutes Not Used: De Gea; Jones; Martial, Rashford

Bookings: Ander Herrera 83′, Eric Bailly 90′

2016/17 – UEFA Europa League – Feyenoord – Home

Manchester United beat Feyenoord 4-0 in the UEFA Europa League at Old Trafford on Thursday night in a very convincing win. Jose Mourinho’s side were on fire from the start of the match, dominating their opposition with Wayne Rooney, Henrikh Mkhitaryan, Zlatan Ibrahimovic and others pulling the strings. Paul Scholes made the claim that United would score four or five goals in this match, something he was right about. United have been playing like this for the past few weeks, but the result will instil the confidence in the side that never gave up. Good luck on Sunday, coin throwers!

Jose Mourinho made six changes to the side which faced Arsenal five days ago with Sergio Romero, Daley Blind, Luke Shaw, Wayne Rooney, Henrikh Mkhitaryan and Zlatan Ibrahimovic all starting. United would need a victory over Feyenoord to be in with a chance of a knockout stage berth in the UEFA Europa League this season after Fenerbahçe beat Zorya Luhansk 2-0 in the early evening kick off. United were third in the group at kick off with six points from four matches, perhaps United were lucky to still be in with a chance of qualifying for the knockout stages, but either way, this should be taken seriously, or the criticism that will follow will be thick and fast.

Ahead of the match, Jose Mourinho said that Michael Carrick would be the only positional player with five attacking players, other than the four defenders and the goalkeeper that is. United started the match lively, using their attackers to their potential, which is what we wanted and needed to see. United were playing some good football with some good attacking play against the Dutch side. Paul Pogba fired a decent effort towards goal, just off target. United were trying to find something to take the driving seat in the game, being very positive in their quest.

Soon, Feyenoord had a rare chance to get something from this game, breaking through United and getting a shot on goal, which Romero blocked, with a second chance moments later, making the save again. United seem to be up for the challenge, pressing to get what they need from this match. United, despite being on top for  much of the game, suffered a flat patch around the half hour mark, which needed to change in order for them to get back on the front foot. Minutes later, United were on the attack with Pogba and Mkhitaryan, with nothing coming of the attack. United were getting ready for some action on the build up.

In the 35th minute of the match, United found the opening goal with Wayne Rooney scoring his 248th goal for Manchester United, his 39th European goal for the club, after Zlatan Ibrahimovic assisted for the captain. United need to keep on the front foot, maintain possession and up the pressure on their Dutch opposition. United were still on the front foot, making Feyenoord look like they were out of their depth, which may change into the second half of the match. Mkhitaryan has been playing well, seemingly Mourinho’s plan has worked thus far, given the player some time to adapt, being protected by him and now raring to get involved. The first half ended with United scoring the only goal of the match.

United started well int he second half with the first notable chance coming from Rooney, but he could not catch up with the ball to cause problems for goalkeeper Brad Jones. Mkhitaryan was denied a clear foul against him by the referee after he broke through the Feyenoord defence, which possibly could have been a red card for the visitors, but yet again, another decision not given for United by another poor referee. I’m sensing a pattern here this season. United did find the net against in the 55th minute, but if was offside. United are looking to get what they need, maintaining the pressure on the Eredivisie leaders, who have so far bene played out of the match.

United were playing some good football again, things are starting to click. A second goal was a just though, or heartbreak could befit United once again. Mkhitaryan has been on fire, getting some good balls into good positions and getting involved himself on the run. Juan Mata has been one of the key players in the match too. Mourinho has got his side starting to look like a Manchester United side, which is great to see. United doubled their lead on the 69th minute with Juan Mata finding the back of the net with a Rooney assist. United had their insurance, should they concede a late goal, but another would not go a miss. United were still trying. Marcus Rashford replaced the goalscorer, Mata, moments after scoring.

United went 3-0 up in the 75th minute after Zlatan Ibrahimovic had the ball in the area, crossed it short, further into the area and Brad Jones put the ball into his own net with a deflection. United were home and dry and in the running for a knockout stage berth, should they obtain a point against Zorya Luhansk. Wayne Rooney and Henrikh Mkhitaryan were replaced in the 82nd minute for Jesse Lingard and Memphis Depay with United looking to end the match on a high, continuing to pressure their Dutch opposition, who have been made to look very poor at Old Trafford this evening. United continued to dominate the match, scoring a fourth goal in stoppage time after Antonio Valencia assisted Jesse Lingard for a stunning effort on goal. United were home and dry at Old Trafford and Paul Scholes was right, United scored four goals in a pretty dominant affair.

Goals: Wayne Rooney 35′, Juan Mata 69′, Brad Jones OG 75′, Jesse Lingard 90+1′

Assists: Zlatan Ibrahimovic 35′, Wayne Rooney 69′, Antonio Valencia 90+1′

Manchester United: Romero; Valencia, Jones, Blind, Shaw; Carrick, Pogba; Mata (Rashford 70′), Rooney (Lingard 82′), Mkhitaryan (Memphis 82′); Ibrahimovic

Substitutes Not Used: De Gea; Rojo; Herrera, Fellaini

2016/17 – UEFA Europa League – Fenerbahce – Away

Manchester United were beaten 2-1 in Istanbul in a match where Moussa Sow scored a spectacular overhead kick inside the first two minutes of the match and Jeremain Lens also scoring a stunning goal to attain all three points from the match. Wayne Rooney, despite missing a decent chance on goal in the early stages of the match scored s stunner himself in the 89th minute of the match.

United manager Jose Mourinho made a few changes to his starting XI against Fenerbahce with Morgan Schneiderlin, Wayne Rooney and Anthony Martial all returning to the starting lineup. Henrikh Mkhitaryan, who had been absent since the Manchester derby defeat to Manchester City at Old Trafford on the 10th September, returned to the squad, taking a place on the bench, which will have stopped some moaning from the supporters. United did not start their match well, conceding an early goal, a spectacular overhead kick from Moussa Sow just two minutes into the match, which gave United a much bigger job to do. The atmosphere inside the Şükrü Saracoğlu Stadium was fantastic, something United may have to deal with in order to get something from the match.

United had some good build up play coming up to the ninth minute with Morgan Schneiderlin starting the play, some passing between Anthony Martial and Marcus Rashford, with the latter having a shot on goal, wich was off target. United have a lot of work to do after that early goal, but they were trying to get the better of the home side. The night could have been so much worse for United after Schneiderlin took a Jeremain Lens out with his trailing leg, just outside the box, earning himself a yellow card. United immediately went on the attack, which came to nothing other than United winning a corner, which added some pressure for the home side, but nothing that would level the score for United. Ander Herrera became the second United player to be booked in the 18th minute of the match, it’s surely not going to end up like the Burnley match, is it?

United just seemed to be a side that were a shadow of themselves, especially since the opening goal just two minutes into the match. The talent was there, it just was not attainable by the players on the pitch for whatever reason. United had a good chance to level the score in the 21st minute of the match as Martial threaded the ball into the box, towards Rooney, whose touch was poor, sending it over the crossbar. Just another reason why Rooney is no longer the top player in this side. Fenerbahce then attacked, putting United under a lot of pressure, but failing to get themselves another goal. Paul Pogba was unable to continue after 28 minutes of the match, suffering from a dead leg and trying to run it off, being unable to. United brought Zlatan Ibrahimovic on for the Frenchman, who will now lead the line, with Rooney playing in Pogba’s number ten role.

United now needed to keep their heads, get themselves back into the match and try and ensure all three points head back to Manchester with them. United had some good periods in the first half, but failing to take any control in the match. Tempers seemed to boil in the dying embers of the match after Rooney fouled Sousa and Volkan Demirel saw himself booked for a skirmish. United still out of sorts and the arrival of Ibrahimovic after Pogba’s injury has not changed anything. Sow nearly scored for the home side in stoppage time at the end of the first half, United clinging onto their position in the match so far. The first half ended with United needing to take their chances in the second half.

At the start of the second half, Mourinho made another change with Juan Mata replacing Morgan Schneiderlin. United, despite trying to find something from the game and being out of sorts in achieving it. Just before the hour, Jeremain Lens scored another stunning effort doubling the home sides lead. Immediately, Mourinho made his third change of the match bringing on Henrikh Mkhitaryan for Marcus Rashford. United were the livelier of the two sides with the Armenian attempting to get something for his side, gaining possession and trying to work his magic. Fenerbahce seemed dangerous on the counter attack, which seems to threaten United all the more, leaving them back tracking. United continued to try and find something, with that coming in the 89th minute with Rooney scoring his 247th Manchester United goal. Despite the late resurgence from United, it was not enough and now they will need results from their last two matches in order to qualify for the knockout stages in the UEFA Europa League.

Goals: Wayne Rooney 89′

Manchester United: De Gea; Darmian, Blind, Rojo, Shaw; Schneiderlin (Mata 46′), Herrera; Pogba (Ibrahimovic 30′); Rashford (Mkhitaryan 60′), Rooney, Martial

Substitutes Not Used: Romero; Jones; Young, Fellaini

Bookings: Morgan Schneiderlin 12′, Ander Herrera 18′, Juan Mata 73′

2016/17 – UEFA Europa League – Fenerbahce – Home

Manchester United were looking to prove doubters wrong after a tactical performance against Liverpool, against the returning Robin van Persie as Fenerbahce visited Old Trafford. United battered the Turkish-side 4-1 with goals from Paul Pogba, Anthony Martial and Jesse Lingard and a consolation goal from Van Persie. United fielded a strong side with David De Gea, Pogba, Martial and Wayne Rooney all starting.

Manchester United clearly started off the better team pressing highly against a defensive Fenerbahce side. With Carrick sitting deep United seemed much more assured going forward as Pogba and Mata could join the attack every time. The first real opportunity came after 15 minutes when Juan Mata picked up the ball from the right-hand side whipped a ball towards the back post, flying in to get his head on it was Martial  but unfortunately for them he couldn’t quite time his jump well and the chance was gone. United did dominate possession and soon enough they scored but it came through a very direct method after 31 minutes. Carrick sitting inside his own half then pinged a 60 yard ball with great precision finding Juan Mata who controlled well but was fouled from behind, up stepped Paul Pogba and his penalty beat the keeper to his right.

Just 2 minutes later and United were awarded another penalty. Juan Mata slid through a delightful low volley into Martial’s feet who was clipped from behind giving the referee no choice but to give a penalty. This time Martial stepped up and scored in exactly the same corner Pogba managed earlier. It got better for United and Pogba just before half time, a great break started with Wayne Rooney who stole the ball with a strong interception, he then fed Lingard who turned away from goal and laid it off to Pogba who curled his shot into the top corner past Demirel. United go into the half 3-0 up!

During half time United made a change by replacing Chris Smalling with Marcos Rojo. United started the second half off the same way they finished the first half, by scoring! Pogba picked up the ball just inside the Fenerbahce half, a clever pass feeds Rooney who first time lays it off to Jesse Lingard who shoots low from 20 yards out into the back of the Fenerbahce net. 10 minutes into the second half and the visiting side managed to get a grip of the game and pull together a 5 minute spell of possession including a free-kick from the right-hand side which was lofted in by Souza but headed clear by Michael Carrick. 5 minutes later the returning RVP hit a curving shot just wide of the far hand post after finding some great space on the edge of the box. This spell continued and after 62 minutes RVP whipped a free-kick into the box headed behind by Shaw but the pressure was mounting.

Manchester United made the second of their changes after 65 minutes when Jesse Lingard was replaced by Memphis Depay. Memphis had his first real chance on the ball, finding space about 25 yards out and hit a vicious shot just wide. Just moments before though he bombed down the left hand side after being fed by Mata but his ball squared across was weak and intercepted. After 75 minutes, Paul Pogba was replaced by Timothy Fosu-Mensah. 5 minutes later Mata was denied by Demirel after Memphis slipped a good pass through and his right-footed attempt was saved well.

In the 83rd minutes the United faithful got their wish, good work from Emmanuel Emenike on the left hand side beat Darmian and then fed a low cross into Robin van Persie on his return to Old Trafford, which lead to strong applause and chants from the United fans as well as those travelling. 4-1 to Manchester United going into the last 5 minutes. United appeared to be sitting back but a good counter attack lead to a corner being gained and from which, some very neat play arose. Memphis played it short to Mata, back to Memphis who’s flick found Mata again who set up Fosu-Mensah whose shot from the edge of the box was relatively easily saved.
United close out the last two minutes with ease and complete what was a fast paced, attacking display and most importantly 3 points more in the group.

Goals: Paul Pogba (pen) 31′, 45+1′, Anthony Martial (pen) 33′, Jesse Lingard 48′

Assists: Jesse Lingard 45+1′, Wayne Rooney 48′

Manchester United: De Gea, Darmian, Bailly, Smalling (Rojo 46′), Shaw, Carrick, Pogba (Fosu-Mensah 75′), Lingard (Memphis 66′), Mata, Martial, Rooney

Substitutes Not Used: Romero, Fellaini, Rashford, Ibrahimovic

2016/17 – UEFA Europa League – Zorya Luhansk – Home

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′

2016/17 – UEFA Europa League – Feyenoord – Away

Manchester United were beaten 1-0 by Feyenoord in their first UEFA Europa League group stage match on Rotterdam on Thursday evening. Jose Mourinho’s side have now lost two matches on the bounce with a reaction needed against Watford on Sunday to avoid three defeats in a row. United have a team capable of winning matches on paper, but on the pitch, it seems a different story right now. I am sure the media will pick apart the result, make out this is worse than it actually is, getting their Mourinho to be sacked stories ready for later in the season, should they need them. How fickle journalism has become in the modern-day.

Jose Mourinho changes his line-up for this match, reverting to a 4-3-3 formation with David De Gea in goal, Matteo Darmian, Eric Bailly, Chris Smalling and Marcos Rojo in defence. The midfield has been changed to a trio with Morgan Schneiderlin, Ander Herrera, and Paul Pogba all playing together with the three forwards being Juan Mata and Anthony Martial either side of Marcus Rashford. Mourinho opted for plenty of depth on the bench with Sergio Romero, Timothy Fosu-Mensah, Memphis Depay, Michael Carrick, Ashley Young, Marouane Fellaini and Zlatan Ibrahimovic available should they be required.

United started the match well, getting plenty of the ball and getting it forward, albeit to no avail. Feyenoord started to get themselves into the match, winning the ball from good positions and threatening United on the attack, but not having much threat at doing so. Shortly after the tenth minute, the home side had their first credible shot on goal, which was saved by De Gea. Feyenoord had another shot on goal minutes later, which was again thwarted by De Gea. Bailly had to have some treatment for a dead leg after thwarting a chance from being created. United managed to then get the ball forward after Bailly was back on the pitch, getting a free-kick in an advanced area which Pogba took, but Brad Jones managed to get to the ball nipping United’s chance in the bud.

The tempo of the game started to dwindle midway through the first half, with not much action taking place other than each team having the ball, getting into advanced areas then losing possession. United looked good at times but seemed to not take their chances as well as they should . Towards the end of the first half, Feyenoord seemed to have the better chances, getting some pressure on United, but not taking chances, which seems to be the story of the first half, at least. Mourinho may be looking to make some changes at the start of the second half, or at some point soon after. Their team is good enough on paper to make an impact in the game, but so far it just does not seem to be happening. The first half ended with a stalemate with the second half hopefully more telling.

At the start of the second half, no changes were made by either team but Moutinho had Ibrahimovic warming up and likely to be called upon. Mourinho made his first change of the match which was a triple change with Ibrahimovic, Memphis and Young replacing Rashford, Martial, and Mata. United started on the front foot after the changes, getting forward and threatening to break through on the attack. United still seemed to be looking for inspiration. Feyenoord, despite taking one of their better performers off, were still attacking United and threatening to find that elusive goal which seemed to have not arrived for both teams this evening, despite chances being created.

In the 79th minute, Feyenoord opened United up to score the first goal of the match putting them in command for the final minutes of the match. Marcos Rojo was out of position for the goal, which to be honest is to be expected as the player is not of United quality, despite many thinking he was. United had it all to do in order to rescue something from the match, but to be honest they did deserve to concede a goal as they had many chances to take a lead of their own, with nothing getting close enough to do damage to the home side. Despite trying in the final minutes of the match, United were just not finding the goal they needed to take a point from the game. Rojo won a free-kick outside the area with Ibrahimovic drilling it on target into the arms of the keeper. United will be looking back at that defeat thinking about what could have been. There are five matches left, but losing two on the trot is not a good position to be in.

Manchester United: De Gea; Darmian, Bailly, Smalling, Rojo; Schneiderlin, Herrera, Pogba; Martial (Memphis 63′), Rashford (Ibrahimovic 63′), Mata (Young 63′)

Substitutes Not Used: Romero; Fosu-Mensah; Carrick, Fellaini

copyright: JW