What We Learned: Mkhitaryan is a beast; Herrera and Pogba make a great midfield

Manchester United qualified for the knockout stages of the UEFA Europa League on Thursday evening with a 2-0 victory over Zorya Luhansk in Odessa. Henrikh Mkhitaryan opened his account by scoring the first goal of the match just after the restart, with Zlatan Ibrahimovic scoring the second in the final minutes of the match after a great pass by Paul Pogba, a player who is criticised for doing nothing, despite running matches, maintaining possession with his superb passing and generally pulling the strings in midfield. Jose Mourinho will be happy that his side are into the knockout stages, leaving them to concentrate on the domestic competitions with United trying to better their Premier League position, also trying to retain the Emirates FA Cup and find a place in the final of the EFL Cup. United will find out who they will be drawn against on Monday, but they go through as an unseeded side, but will not face the likes of Tottenham Hotspur (fallen from the Champions League) or Fenerbahçe, who are both seeded.

Henrikh Mkhitaryan

The Armenian was written off by the media some months ago after being dropped and failing to get anything other than ‘the player needs to adapt to English football’ from Jose Mourinho. That meant that Henrikh Mkhitaryan had flopped at Manchester United and would be sold at a loss in the coming transfer window, or in the summer. Actually, it meant that, believe it or not, the player needed to adapt, something which he did and has continued to do since coming back into the team as a starter against Feyenoord three weeks ago. Mkhitaryan has been a player always included in the team since then, proving himself to his manager by assisting twice and scoring his first goal for his new club. Mkhitaryan was a bargain based on the fee he cost United, and will pay that back over the coming weeks, months and years, inspiring United on the way. What a player Mkhitaryan is. Arsenal and Liverpool both wanted him when United got him, funnily enough, those two teams did not want him, when it looked as if he had flopped, both sets of supporters mocked the player, now they will be in awe of the player they both wanted and cannot have.

Eric Bailly

It was good to see the Ivorian back in the starting XI for United, boy is he a player we have all missed. The defence has been run just as well with Phil Jones, Marcos Rojo and Daley Blind running the show, though, but it was a bit thin on the ground with Chris Smalling also on the sidelines through injury. It was a shock to see Bailly on the bench against Everton, unused, though, and even more a shock to see him start against Zorya Luhansk. Bailly did well for the majority of the match, looked to have injured himself again, with what was deemed as a concussion, but he was fit to continue for the remainder of the match, getting some match fitness ahead of the visit of Tottenham Hotspur to Old Trafford on Sunday afternoon, where he will probably start again. Bailly was possibly lucky to not be sent off for his cynical challenge in the dying seconds of the match, but along with Ander Herrera, was booked. Bailly should be fine for the festive period of matches, but when January comes, United will lose his services once again with the Ivory Coast looking to retain their African Cup of Nations crown. United will have defensive cover, providing no new injuries happen between now and then, but the transfer window will be open too, so Mourinho could strengthen his side, should players the club are interested in, be available, of course.

Zlatan Ibrahimovic

The Swedish striker has been criticised by many Manchester United supporters this season, based on the fact he is 35 years old, scored 50 goals for Paris Saint-Germain last season and has not lived up to their expectations. Zlatan Ibrahimovic scored his thirteenth goal of the season against Zorya Luhansk in Odessa on Thursday evening, a great achievement in less than twenty appearances so far this season. United needed a striker, they got one. Yes, Zlatan is not as clinical as he once was, but he has the class to make it work for United. He is grateful for the opportunity to play for United and for Jose Mourinho once again, and with some rest planned ahead for him, he could be kept fresh throughout the season. United needed a twenty goal a season striker last season, many wanted a striker capable of scoring that amount of goal, and that is exactly what has been provided this season. Zlatan Ibrahimovic is a class act, a clinical striker. He misses chances, but so do other strikers in the world of football. Zlatan will achieve things at United, he is sure of that. the confidence he has shown thus far is refreshing and seems to have provided a level of expectation with the players, who have been down in the dumps for the last three years or so. Zlatan will prevail at United, and he will make sure United do, too.

Paul Pogba and Ander Herrera

Manchester United have a great midfield right now with Ander Herrera and Paul Pogba. Both players were the backbone of the side against the Ukrainian side. Pogba had a great game, assisting in Zlatan Ibrahimovic’s goal, but could have had a goal himself, had he been on target in the early stages of the match. Pogba is a player that will be criticised by many, as for the fee he cost United, some expect him to find a goal each match he plays, but he’s not that kind of player. Pogba is a midfielder, can be used defensively or on the attack, so he offers a lot more to his game. Herrera is a player who seems to have found his feet this season under Jose Mourinho. Herrera was literally pulling the strings against Zorya, showing his class and worth to the club. Herrera and Pogba added to Michael Carrick, will create such a great midfield trio, which has been seen a few times already this season. The future with Herrera and Pogba is going to be good at Manchester United.

Manchester United back in Europe

Manchester United now have something to smile about European football. Last season, United dropped out of the UEFA Champions League at this stage last year, falling into the Europa League and were drawn against FC Midtjylland, which resulted in a 2-1 defeat away from home. The return leg at Old Trafford ended in a 5-1 victory, putting United into the round of 16, where they faced Liverpool and promptly exited the competition. United have found themselves in the knockout stages of the competition, a way for them to get into the Champions League next season, as their league position is not likely to result in automatic qualification unless things change in the league, which will be a tough feat to reach.

Report: Mkhitaryan and Ibrahimovic send United through in Odessa

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′

CONFIRMED: Rooney, Mkhitaryan, and Mata start against Zorya

Manchester United face Zorya Luhansk in their final UEFA Europa League match of the season knowing that a draw will see them through into the knockout stages of the competition. United have fared well in the cup competitions this season, faltering in the league. United need to start playing like a team that have not given up, in all competitions, starting tonight. A victory will give the club some breathing space, knowing that only domestic football will happen for the foreseeable future with the Europa League not starting again until February. United will entertain Tottenham Hotspur in the Premier League at Old Trafford on Sunday, knowing that anything less than a win will unleash a barrage of criticism, which I think is why Jose Mourinho left Michael Carrick, Antonio Valencia, and Matteo Darmian in Manchester, giving him a decent start in the match with players not having to travel to the Ukraine. United should have this match in the bag well before the final 20 minutes of the match, if not, they are playing with the clubs only hope of securing UEFA Champions League football next season. Here are the starting XI and list of substitutes for both teams this evening:

Manchester United:


Young, Bailly, Rojo, Blind;

Herrera, Pogba;

Mata, Rooney, Mkhitaryan;



De Gea; Jones, Fosu-Mensah; Lingard, Fellaini; Martial, Rashford

Zorya Luhansk:


Opanasenko, Sivakov, Forster, Sukhitsky;

Karavayev, Kharatin, Chaykovskiy, Petryak;

Ljubenovic, Bezborodko


Shevckenho, Kulach, Lipartia, Paulinho, Grechyshkin, Bonaventure, Checher

Preview: A cold night in the Ukraine stands in Manchester United’s way!

Stadion Chornomorets, Odessa, Ukraine

UEFA Europa League 2016/17

Thursday 8th December 2016 – KO 18:00 [Live on BT Sport]

Referee: Tamás Bognar (HUN)

Assistant Referees: Zsolt Varga (HUN) and Balázs Buzás (HUN)

Additional Assistant Referees: Peter Solymosi (HUN) and Ádám Farkas (HUN)

Fourth Official: Theodoros Georgiou (HUN)

Manchester United have travelled to Odessa in the Ukraine in order to face Zorya Luhansk in their last group stage match in the UEFA Europa League this season. United need a point to earn a place in the knockout stages of the competition this season, and a cold night in Easter Europe stands in their way. United are in another period of mixed form this season, winning recently in cup competitions; a 4-0 victory over Feyenoord in the Europa League and a 4-1 victory over West Ham United in the EFL Cup. Their Premier League form is questionable, earning their sixth draw of the season last weekend away to Everton, their third draw in a row in the league, which is making the side suffer in the league with a massive gap from sixth, where they currently stand, to the top spot. Even fourth place, the minimum requirement in the league this season, is a push at this moment in time. Saying that, there are 24 matches still to play in the league this season, with a bust December coming up, then a break on European football, with United fighting on three fronts domestically in the league, the EFL Cup and in their bid to retain the FA Cup this season.

Jose Mourinho on the UEFA Europa League:

“We are going in the same direction. We assumed from the beginning that this is an important competition for us. It is difficult because we play Thursday and then Sunday. We are never given a Monday match to have one more day to rest and prepare. It is difficult to play together. But we want to try to win it and while we are in the competition will try to win it. We want to go as far as possible, step by step. The first step is to qualify from a very difficult group.”

Mourinho on Manchester United away form in the UEFA Europa League this season:

“We lost to Feyenoord, a game that we should win. The team played well, the team had the game always under control and when the team was pushing to win, we lost. Against Fenerbahce, another difficult place to go, we conceded a goal in the first minute which gave the home team the best conditions to win. If you want to qualify we cannot lose three matches away. We need points tomorrow.”

Henrikh Mkhitaryan on not writing Manchester United off in the Premier League:

“We didn’t give up yet on the Premier League. So we’re not saying we’re out of the competition. We are still in the competition, there are a lot of games to go, so we are trying to do our best to be in the top four. And of course, in the Europa League we are also going to try to go as far as we can.”

Manchester United Form:- DWDWD

Everton 1-1 D, West Ham United 4-1 W, West Ham United 1-1 D, Feyenoord 4-0 W, Arsenal 1-1 D

Zorya Luhansk Form:- LDLWL

Southampton 1-0 L, Swansea City 1-1 D, Chelsea 5-0 L, West Ham United 2-0 W, Burnley 2-1 L

Manchester United Top Scorers:

12 – Zlatan Ibrahimovic, 5 – Juan Mata, 4 – Anthony Martial, Paul Pogba, Marcus Rashford, 3 – Jesse Lingard, Wayne Rooney, 1 – Michael Carrick, Own Goal, Ander Herrera, Chris Smalling

Zorya Luhansk Top Scorers:

5 – Oleksandr Karavayev, 4 – Rafael Forster, Željko Ljubenović, Ivan Petriak, 2 – Artem Gordiyenko, Vladyslav Kulach, Ivan Petryak, 1 – Emmanuel Bonaventure Dennis, Denys Bezborodko, Ihor Chaykovskyi, Dmytro Grechyshkin, Yevhen Opanasenko, Paulinho, Artem Sukhotskiy, Yevhen Tkachuk

Manchester United Squad;

Manager: Jose Mourinho

Goalkeepers: David De Gea, Sergio Romero, Sam Johnstone

Defenders: Eric Bailly, Phil Jones, Marcos Rojo, Chris Smalling, Daley Blind, Luke Shaw, Timothy Fosu-Mensah, Antonio Valencia, Matteo Darmian, Axel Tuanzebe

Midfielders: Paul Pogba, Memphis Depay, Juan Mata, Jesse Lingard, Michael Carrick, Ashley Young, Ander Herrera, Henrikh Mkhitaryan, Marouane Fellaini, Morgan Schneiderlin

Forwards: Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Wayne Rooney, Anthony Martial, Marcus Rashford

Injuries and Suspensions: Chris Smalling (foot), Luke Shaw (knock)

Zorya Luhansk Squad:

Manager: Yuriy Vernydub

Goalkeepers: Oleksiy Shevchenko, Oleh Chuvayev, Ihor Levchenko

Defenders: Artem Sukhotskyi, Mikhail Sivakov, Ihor Chaykovskyi, Mykyta Kamenyuka, Rafael Forster, Hryhoriy Yarmash, Yevhen Tkachuk, Yevhen Opanasenko, Vyacheslav Checher, Eduard Sobol

Midfielders: Artem Gordiyenko, Ivan Petryak, Ihor Kharatin, Oleksandr Karavayev, Željko Ljubenović, Dmytro Grechyshkin

Forwards: Vladyslav Kulach, Paulinho, Yaroslav Kvasov, Denys Bezborodko, Emmanuel Bonaventure Dennis

Injuries and Suspensions: N/A

Predicted Starting XI:

Predicted Score:

Zorya Luhansk 0-3 Manchester United

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′

COMFIRMED: Fosu-Mensah, Bailly, Pogba, Mata & Ibrahimovic start against Zorya Luhansk

Manchester United face Zorya Luhansk in the UEFA Europa League at Old Trafford this evening. United were beaten 1-0 by Feyenoord in their first match in the Europa league this season, with Zorya drawing 1-1 against Fenerbahçe. Tonight, Jose Mourinho’s side will be looking to get back to winning ways in the competition and continue their good form, which has seen them win their last two matches in the EFL Cup and the Premier League, after their three-match losing streak which saw the media mock United once again, only for them to be praised days later for their victory over Premier League champions which saw United score four goals in the first half of the match, winning 4-1. United have a strong side to face the Ukrainian side, whom they have never played before. United, however, have not suffered a defeat to Ukrainian opposition in Europe, playing six matched, winning four and drawing twice. Here are the starting XI and list of substitutes for both teams this evening.

Manchester United:


Fosu-Mensah, Bailly, Smalling, Rojo;

Fellaini, Pogba;

Lingard, Mata, Rashford;



Johnstone; Memphis, Martial, Carrick, Young, Schneiderlin; Rooney

Zorya Luhansk:


Kamenyuka, Sivakov, Forster, Sobol;

Grechyshkin, Chaykovskiy;

Karavaev, Ljubenovic, Petriak;



Chuvayev, Sukhotskiy, Gordiyenko, Lipartia, Paulinho, Opanasenko, Checher

Press Conference: Mourinho pushing for a win; Zlatan starts, Mkhitaryan and Shaw out of contention

Manchester United manager Jose Mourinho sat down with the media ahead of the UEFA Europa League clash with Zorya Luhansk at Old Trafford on Thursday evening. United have turned it around so far, coming from a three-match losing streak, and are now on the cusp of a three-match winning streak having beaten both Northampton Town and Leicester City in their last two matches. United are yet to earn a point in the Europa League this season having been beaten by Feyenoord a fortnight ago, albeit to an offside goal. United will be looking to get points on the board, earning a victory which will also keep the pressure on Stoke City ahead of their visit to Old Trafford on Sunday. Here are the main points from the press conference.

Daley Blind on Zorya Luhansk (speaking to MUTV):

“Zorya are second in the [Ukrainian] league so we know they won’t be easy opponents and we will not underestimate them. We must show the same attitude we had against Leicester and get the three points.”

Jose Mourinho on getting a first win in the Europa League this season:

“It’s very important. I think we have to win. If we don’t win, we have four matches [left in the group] and I would say we have to win all the last four matches, which is difficult. Tomorrow we need to win.”

Mourinho on Luke Shaw being sidelined through illness:

“He’s ill – temperature, fever, bad throat. He arrived this morning and immediately the doctor sent him home because one player like this in the middle of the other ones can affect others so he went home.”

Mourinho on Wayne Rooney:

“I was completely convinced of playing him tomorrow. I’m not sure if I do that because with the situation that you create to him I think he really can’t afford to have a performance that is not really good and I am here to protect him and have to analyse the best thing for him. If he is not totally ready for it, I will discuss that with the medical staff.”

Mourinho on Anthony Martial’s contusion which kept him out of the Leicester City match:

“He’s now recovered from the contusion – not the concussion. He has recovered and he is ready for tomorrow.”

Mourinho on Zlatan Ibrahimovic, who was rumoured to be in Milan earlier this week:

“Zlatan starts.”

Mourinho when asked more questions about Anthony Martial:

“No more questions about Rashford? Why Rashford is playing so well? No more questions so now you turn to Martial?” 

Mourinho on Sam Allardyce, the sting and his reputation:

“I like Sam. I feel sorry for him. I know it was his dream job. I like him and respect him. What happened is not going to interfere in any way with my relationship with him. It is between him and FA.”

Jesse Lingard, who replaced Daley Blind on consistency:

“The main thing for me this season is consistency.”

Lingard on Zlatan Ibrahimovic and his influence at Manchester United:

“He’s been a leader for the team, especially when the captain’s not playing. He’s stepped up and he’s really led the team. Obviously the young lads look up to him and most of the older ones do as well. When you see the things he’s done in his career [you can’t help but be impressed]. He helps the young lads a lot. Especially me and Marcus [Rashford]. He’s always there for us and always there for the team.”

Manchester United are in a much better predicament than they were a week or so back. Coming out of a three-match losing streak, heading into what could be a three-match winning streak, should they beat Zorya Luhansk, of course. United beat Leicester City with a great first half performance on Saturday, embarrassing the champions to the point where the manager tried to save face and make his team more defensive, at the expense of both Jamie Vardy and Riyad Mahrez, which stopped United from taking much more advantage, not they would have done in the second half, as they were not the same team which ended the first half, but they were 4-0 up at the time, so it does not suggest they faltered in their performance in the second half. United seem to have got the attention of their rivals and will be looking at Zorya in order to get the attention of both Feyenoord and Fenerbahçe in their group by getting their first points on the table against the Ukrainian side.

Jose Mourinho has confirmed that Luke Shaw (illness) and Henrikh Mkhitaryan will not play for United on Thursday with the Armenian returning to training on Wednesday, so will probably be in with a chance to face Stoke City at Old Trafford on Sunday, before the international break commences once again. United may field a stronger side against Zorya with the confirmation that Zlatan Ibrahimovic will start against the Ukrainian side, which will be something they may be dreading. Ibrahimovic has scored five goals so far this season, with Marcus Rashford scoring four. Anthony Martial is back from his contusion, which saw him miss both the Northampton Town and Leicester City matches. United will be setting out to take the spoils away from the Ukrainian side, whom they have never faced before. United have played six times in Europa (the UEFA Champions League) against Ukrainian sides, winning four matches and drawing twice, never yet defeated, which could be something that continues at Old Trafford on Thursday night.

Scouting The Opposition: Zorya Luhansk profiled ahead of Manchester United match

Manchester United will take on Zorya Luhansk for the first time in their history in the Europa League this Thursday evening. One of the smallest clubs in the competition, Zorya have never before competed in the group stages of the Europa League. Qualifying with a fourth place finish in their division last season, Zorya will want to make sure their European journey isn’t short-lived. Although they finished 22 points behind league leaders Dynamo Kiev last year, they have been steadily climbing the table each year and will want to make these European engagements a regular feature. Despite being unfancied, Zorya managed to secure a draw against Fenerbahce in the last round of matches. Yet, the quality of their opposition in this group means they will find it difficult to qualify for the next round.

Manager: Yuriy Vernydub

Since taking charge of Zorya in 2011, Yuriy Vernydub has steadily improved the squad and league position each year. From a thirteenth place finish in the 2011/12 season, Vernydub has overseen a steady rise that lifted them to fourth place last season. Vernydub has begun to turn Zorya into a real force in the Ukrainian Premier League. With a relatively young squad, average age 26, there is the potential for further development. Vernydub will hope to continue to rise in the domestic league and will enjoy the opportunity to make his mark in Europe this season. He has already demonstrated that his side will be tough to beat at home with a well-earned point against Fenerbahce.

Key Player: Oleksandr Karavaev

Since joining on loan from Shakhtar Donetsk, Oleksandr Karavaev has spent the past two seasons in a Zorya shirt enhancing both his reputation and transfer value. The 24-year-old midfielder has four goals and 1 assist for the season so far. Add this to the 11 goals and eight assists last season across all competitions and it looks unlikely he will remain in Zorya colours for long. Karavaev plays primarily on the right of an advanced midfield three and will look to support the lone striker as often as possible. Recent matches have shown that United have had problems defending against wide players who will look to drift centrally to support the strikers or take advantage of goal scoring opportunities themselves. Whoever Mourinho chooses to occupy the left-back position can expect to be one of the busier United players of the evening.

Form Guide:

Zorya Luhansk 1-1 Fenerbahçe

Dynamo Kyiv 0-1 Zorya Luhansk

Zorya Luhansk 2-1 Vorskla

Predicted Starting XI:

Key Player: Oleksandr Karavaev

Since joining on loan from Shakhtar Donetsk, Oleksandr Karavaev has spent the past two seasons in a Zorya shirt enhancing both his reputation and transfer value. The 24-year-old midfielder has four goals and one assist for the season so far. Add this to the 11 goals and eight assists last season across all competitions and it looks unlikely he will remain in Zorya’s colours for long. Karavaev plays primarily on the right of an advanced midfield three and will look to support the lone striker as often as possible. Recent matches have shown that United have had problems defending against wide players who will look to drift centrally to support the strikers or take advantage of goal scoring opportunities themselves. Whoever Mourinho chooses to occupy the left-back position can expect to be one of the busier United players of the evening.

Predicted Score:

Manchester United 1-0 Zorya Luhansk

United will be on a high after a scintillating first half performance against Leicester City at the weekend.  During a frenetic period during the first half, United finally seemed to click into gear in attack and put the Foxes to the sword. There are likely to be changes to the starting eleven that faced the Premier League champions with Stoke City to come at the weekend. Memphis Depay, Wayne Rooney, and Henrikh Mkhitaryan are likely to be involved from the start.

Despite the changes and a long journey to Ukraine, Manchester United should have too much quality and experience in their line-up to suffer a defeat at the hands of one of the Europa League outsiders. Mkhitaryan, in particular, will hope to erase the memories of his disastrous showing in the Manchester Derby and play his way back into Mourinho’s thoughts for the rest of the season. Fans who have made the long journey could be in for a long night as Mourinho will hope to score early and close the game out as soon as possible with future engagements in mind.

Tactical Preview: Manchester United to close Zorya Luhansk down and avoid long shots?

Manchester United go into what is potentially their easiest game of the season to date as they face Ukrainian minnows Zorya Luhansk in the Europa League. United come into the game off the back of their biggest win of the season when they battered reigning champions Leicester 4-1 at Old Trafford and it’s certainly a win they’ll want to use to push their season in the right direction. In their first Europa League game this season United lost 1-0 away from home against Feyenoord in a game where United dominated possession, chances, and the game but kept on getting caught on the break and through a Tonny Vilhena goal, whereas Zorya Luhansk nearly caused an upset when all but a 96th minute equalizer cost them a victory over Fenerbahce.

In the game v Fenerbahce, Zorya set up in a 4-2-3-1 formation with young loanee Vladyslav Kulach leading the line. Even at home, the Ukrainian team was happy to let Fenerbahce have the ball and try to break them down and in this game, it worked. They conceded nine shots on goal, four corners and only had 42% possession. Their goal came from a good recovery on the halfway line, bringing the ball forward, finished off with an absolute thunder strike from Dmytro Grechyshkin, 25 yards out into the top corner. This is obviously a great strike and would indicate United need to close down quickly and deny them long shots, but also indicates that at home they struggled to build attacks and really threaten.

Manchester United will know that a team like Zorya are not to be underestimated but in all honestly they should walk over them. It is likely that Mourinho will start with a similar line-up to the one he played in the EFL Cup against Northampton, which was:

This was set up in a genuine 4-3-3 rather than Herrera playing as a number 10. This is how United will potentially line-up especially with Rooney leading the line as he was axed from the starting XI for the Leicester game and will likely be for the game against Stoke at the weekend. United have dominated possession in most of their games this season averaging 53% with a pass completion rate of 85% and this theme is likely to continue at Old Trafford on Thursday.


Zorya will let United play and it will be up to Rooney and Co to break down the Ukranian’s defence. This is something that could prove tricky unless the midfield can create space for Rooney who has only scored one goal in six appearances this season and in the game against Northampton he missed several chances that he would have converted a couple of years ago. His shot accuracy is surprisingly high compared to the team accuracy with his sitting at 60% and the team at 43%


United’s best way of creating clear-cut chances will be through either wing play from Ashley Young and Memphis, assuming they start, or with Ander Herrera and Michael Carrick opening the game up with key passes. Memphis has struggled for confidence ever since he joined United from PSV, with the exception of the Champions League and Europa League where he excelled. The game against Brugge stands out where he cut in fantastically scoring and assisting in both legs of the qualifying. Ashley Young has been a good reliable player for United and arguably puts in the best crosses in our team but with only Rooney up front, these will become less effective against a physical team.

memphis-youngMichael Carrick and Ander Herrera are both good ball playing footballers who can create chances with a mixed range of passes. Both enjoy a good long shot, with both of them scoring from outside the box against Northampton in the cup and on several occasions beforehand. They both have high passing accuracy stats with Carrick having 86% and Herrera 84%. Long ball passes are unlikely to be effective in this game however with Zorya playing with 10 men behind the ball for most of the game. It’ll be this accuracy that United rely on if Memphis and Young fail to break them down on the wings.

carrick-herreraI personally think United will win 4-0 or 5-0 with Wayne Rooney getting himself on the scoresheet in an attempt to salvage his career but, in any case, it should be a pretty straight-forward game for the Red Devils.

Preview: Manchester United to give Zorya Luhansk a nightmare trip to Old Trafford?

Old Trafford, Manchester

UEFA Europa League 2016/17

Thursday 29th September 2016 – KO 20:05 [Live on BT Sport]

Referee: Orel Grinfeld (ISR)

Assistant Referees: Danny Krasikow (ISR) and Roy Hassan (ISR)

Additional Assistant Referees: Eli Hacmon (ISR) and Eitan Shmuelevitz (ISR)

Fourth Official: Kiril Balikin (ISR)

Manchester United face Zorya Luhansk in the UEFA Europa League on Thursday night, the first European fixture at Old Trafford this season. United have recovered from a poor period of form, losing three matches in a row, which included a defeat to Feyenoord in the Europa League a fortnight ago. United have since beaten Northampton Town 3-1 and Leicester City 4-1, putting them back on a winning run, which could be lengthened ahead of the international break with home matches against Zorya Luhansk and Stoke City. Jose Mourinho’s side put in a clinical first half against the Premier League champions Leicester City at Old Trafford on Saturday, having a period of 20 minutes which saw them score four goals, beating the reigning champions in the first half of the match. Wayne Rooney was benched for the visit of the champions, with Zlatan Ibrahimovic leading the line, Marcus Rashford and Jesse Lingard on the flanks, Juan Mata playing in Rooney’s number ten role and Ander Herrera and Paul Pogba partnering each other in midfield. Pogba and Herrera both played well in the match, with the former scoring his first goal for his club.

United looked dominant against the champions, with will not be something the Ukrainian side will be looking forward to on their first visit to Old Trafford, a match Mourinho and his squad will be looking to win, registering their first points in Europe’s secondary competition and continuing their unbeaten form this season. The visit of Stoke City, currently at the bottom of the league comes on Sunday, which Mourinho’s side will be looking forward to, slapping more unfortunate news on former United striker Mark Hughes, whose team have not started the season well, earning just two points after six matches. United are in a period of good fortune, the team spirit of the squad will be high and players will be fresh for the match. It is suggested that Zlatan Ibrahimovic has been given a short period of time off, meaning Rooney could return to the starting XI once more.

Henrikh Mkhitaryan seems to have overcome his thigh muscle strain and could be involved against the Ukrainian side, which will be good news for United, who could be a mush stronger side with his presence, but I have still listed him as a doubt as this news has not yet been confirmed by the club. United will be excited to get points on the board in the Europa League this season wit matches against Fenerbahçe (a double-header in October and November) before a home clash with Feyenoord and an away visit to Odessa to face Zorya in December. If United can beat Zorya, then earn two victories against the Turkish giants, with Robin van Persie likely to face his former club, a point against Feyenoord could secure United in the knockout rounds of 32 which will see many teams from the Champions League fall into the secondary competition, making it much harder.

United may not list the Europa League as a tournament they want to play in, but United have not yet won this cup in the club’s history and it will secure a place in the Champions League next season, which would be handy to have, just in case their league form does not improve to finish in the top four this season, which should really be a possibility. United are currently sixth in the league; a point behind Everton, Liverpool and Arsenal, two points behind second-placed Tottenham Hotspur and six points behind league leaders Manchester City.

Manchester United Form:- WWLLL

Leicester City 4-1 W, Northampton Town 3-1 W, Watford 3-1 L, Feyenoord 1-0 L, Manchester City 2-1 L

Manchester United have recovered from a poor period of form in which they lost three matches in a row; two in the Premier League and one in the UEFA Europa League. United started the season with four wins in a row in the FA Community Shield and the Premier League. Since losing against Manchester City, Feyenoord, and Watford, United have beaten Northampton Town 3-1 in the EFL Cup and champions Leicester City 4-1 in the Premier League. Jose Mourinho’s side played their best match this season, albeit in the first half, against Leicester at Old Trafford at the weekend, winning the match in the first half, slowing down in the second, being 4-0 up from the first half. United are now a team on the rise, and that form should continue against the Ukrainian side and into the Premier League against Stoke City at Old Trafford on Sunday, putting United in good stead going into the international break. United have never faced Zorya Luhansk before but have played six matches against Ukrainian sides; Shakhtar Donetsk in 2013, winning 1-0 and drawing 1-1, also playing against Dynamo Kyiv four times, winning 4-0 and 4-2 in 2007, winning 1-0 and drawing 0-0 in 2000.

Zorya Luhansk Form:- WWDDL

FC Vorskla Poltava 2-1 W, FC Dynamo Kyiv 1-0 W, Fenerbahçe SK 1-1 D, FC Stal Dniprodzerzhynsk 2-2 D, FC Dnipro Dnipropetrovsk 2-0 L

Zorya Luhansk have been beaten only once this season, in ten matches; winning six, drawing three also. They are currently second in the Ukrainian Premier League, five points adrift of leaders Shakhtar Donetsk and a point clear of Dynamo Kyiv. Top scorers Oleksandr Karavayev and Željko Ljubenović have scored three goals each this season, two goals less than Zlatan Ibrahimovic and one less than Marcus Rashford, who could well be given a chance to play against the Ukrainian side, given his clinical goalscoring presence at this moment in time. United have never faced Zorya and neither have they faced an English team in any European competition.

Manchester United Top Scorers:

5 – Zlatan Ibrahimovic, 4 – Marcus Rashford, 2 – Juan Mata, 1 – Michael Carrick, Ander Herrera, Jesse Lingard, Paul Pogba, Wayne Rooney, Chris Smalling

Zorya Luhansk Top Scorers:

3 – Oleksandr Karavayev, Željko Ljubenović, 2 – Artem Gordiyenko, Ivan Petryak, 1 – Emmanuel Bonaventure Dennis, Ihor Chaykovskyi, Dmytro Grechyshkin, Yevhen Opanasenko, Paulinho, Yevhen Tkachuk

Manchester United Squad;

Manager: Jose Mourinho

Goalkeepers: David De Gea, Sergio Romero, Sam Johnstone

Defenders: Eric Bailly, Phil Jones, Marcos Rojo, Chris Smalling, Daley Blind, Luke Shaw, Timothy Fosu-Mensah, Antonio Valencia, Matteo Darmian, Axel Tuanzebe

Midfielders: Paul Pogba, Memphis Depay, Juan Mata, Jesse Lingard, Michael Carrick, Ashley Young, Ander Herrera, Henrikh Mkhitaryan, Marouane Fellaini, Morgan Schneiderlin

Forwards: Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Wayne Rooney, Anthony Martial, Marcus Rashford

Injuries and Suspensions: Phil Jones (knee), Anthony Martial (contusion), Henrikh Mkhitaryan (thigh muscle strain), Luke Shaw (groin strain)

Zorya Luhansk Squad:

Manager: Yuriy Vernydub

Goalkeepers: Oleksiy Shevchenko, Oleh Chuvayev, Ihor Levchenko

Defenders: Artem Sukhotskyi, Mikhail Sivakov, Ihor Chaykovskyi, Mykyta Kamenyuka, Rafael Forster, Hryhoriy Yarmash, Yevhen Tkachuk, Yevhen Opanasenko, Vyacheslav Checher, Eduard Sobol

Midfielders: Artem Gordiyenko, Ivan Petryak, Ihor Kharatin, Oleksandr Karavayev, Željko Ljubenović, Dmytro Grechyshkin

Forwards: Vladyslav Kulach, Paulinho, Yaroslav Kvasov, Denys Bezborodko, Emmanuel Bonaventure Dennis

Injuries and Suspensions: N/A

Predicted Starting XI:

Predicted Score:

Manchester United 3-0 Zorya Luhansk

copyright: JW