Manchester (United Kingdom) (AFP) – Zlatan Ibrahimovic headed in a 69th-minute winner as Manchester United got their Europa League campaign off the ground with a laboured 1-0 home win over Zorya Luhansk on Thursday.
Beaten 1-0 at Feyenoord in their Group A opener, Jose Mourinho’s side struggled to break down their unadventurous Ukrainian opponents until the introduction from the bench of Wayne Rooney.
The England captain’s mishit shot was headed in by Ibrahimovic to leave United a point behind group leaders Fenerbahce, who visit Old Trafford on October 20.
It was a far from fluent performance, but it maintained United’s upturn in form following the recent run of three straight defeats that had destroyed their early-season momentum.
Zorya, UEFA group-phase debutants, became United’s 100th continental opponents and they threatened to create a sensation when Zeljko Ljubenovic ballooned over from Ivan Petriak’s cut-back.
In the main, though, they sat back, packing men behind the ball in a 4-5-1 formation, and United struggled to play through them.
Ibrahimovic had a shot deflected wide by Dmytro Grechyshkin, but as in last Saturday’s 4-1 win over league champions Leicester City, the hosts looked most threatening from corners in the first half.
With Daley Blind rested, Juan Mata took over set-piece duties.
From one of the Spaniard’s deliveries, Paul Pogba flicked on and Marcus Rashford rattled a shot against the bar, the ball bouncing down a foot short of the line.
From another, Marouane Fellaini headed into the ground and over. In between, Mata headed over from a Pogba cross and Jesse Lingard saw a header blocked by Rafael Forster.
Just as he had in the first half, Ljubenovic set United’s hearts fluttering early in the second when he narrowly failed to make contact with a cross from Olexandr Karavaev.
Indeed, it was the visitors who registered the match’s first shot on target, with substitute Paulinho obliging United goalkeeper Sergio Romero to leap to his left and palm the ball behind.
Mourinho turned to Rooney, who had started on the bench for the second game running, and within two minutes the United captain had played a part — albeit an unintentional one — in the opening goal.
Released by Mata, Timothy-Fosu Mensah cut the ball back from the byline on the right to Rooney.
The United number 10 miscued his volley, directing the ball into the ground and away from goal, but Ibrahimovic rose at the back post to nod a close-range header over the line.
It was the Swede’s sixth goal in 10 United appearances.
Rooney teed up Fellaini to volley wide from a corner and Ibrahimovic called visiting goalkeeper Oleksii Shevchenko into action with a late free-kick.
But the outcome would have been quite different had Paulinho not missed his kick from Mykyta Kamenyuka’s cross at the other end.
200+ Channels With Sports & News
- Starting price: $33/mo. for fubo Latino Package
- Watch Premier League, World Cup, Euro 2024 & more
- Includes NBC, USA, FOX, ESPN, CBSSN & more
Live & On Demand TV Streaming
- Price: $35/mo. for Sling Blue
- Watch Premier League, World Cup & MLS
- Includes USA, NBC, FOX, FS1 + more
Many Sports & ESPN Originals
- Price: $6.99/mo. (or get ESPN+, Hulu & Disney+ for $13.99/mo.)
- Features Bundesliga, LaLiga, Championship, & more
- Also includes daily ESPN FC news & highlights show
2,000+ soccer games per year
- Price: $4.99/mo
- Features Champions League, Serie A, Europa League & NWSL
- Includes CBS, Star Trek & CBS Sports HQ
175 Premier League Games & PL TV
- Starting price: $4.99/mo. for Peacock Premium
- Watch 175 exclusive EPL games per season
- Includes Premier League TV channel plus movies, TV shows & more
- Mbappé and Neymar feud adds heat to PSG vs Lille clash
- Conte not expecting touchline ban after Tuchel clash
- Mendy rape accuser details alleged attack in locked room at his mansion
- Ben Brereton Díaz rumors signal ambitious signings from Nice
- Chelsea probe alleged racist abuse against Spurs forward Son
- Kobe forget domestic woes to advance in Asian Champions League
- World Cup ticket sales approach 2.5 million, organisers say
- Union Berlin book tells story of club in a changing city and country
- Wolves sign Nunes from Sporting Lisbon in club-record deal
- MLS Earthquakes name US assistant Gonzalez as coach