An Unorthodox Assist For Rooney: The Best And The Worst Rated Manchester United Stars Against Zorya Luhansk

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Manchester United got their Europa League campaign up and running with a slender 1-0 win against the Ukrainian outfit at Old Trafford last evening. As the scoreline would probably suggest, it was a laboured performance by Mourinho’s side with the visitors looking comfortable for large spells of the game. Zlatan Ibrahimovic had endured a tough couple of weeks upfront and finally returned to the scoresheet with a scrappy goal from a wayward shot by substitute Wayne Rooney. That ultimately proved enough as the Red Devils bounced back from the disappointment of losing their opening game of the group to Feyenoord.

In the aftermath of a 4-1 dismantling of Leicester City in the Premier League, Mourinho and his men were in high spirits and were labelled outright favourites to brush aside the European debutants. Four changes were made to the side that began on Saturday, with Sergio Romero, Timothy Fosu-Mensah, Marcos Rojo and Marouane Fellaini replacing David de Gea, Antonio Valencia, Daley Blind and Ander Herrera respectively. All four of them were given the night off, presumably with Sunday’s clash against Stoke City in mind.

United enjoyed the lion’s share of possession in the first half but were restricted to limited opportunities by their counterparts. Luhansk were drilled to play on the break and fancied a couple of opportunities midway through the half. It was the hosts who came the closest to scoring though when Marcus Rashford rattled the crossbar with a vicious strike and Marouane Fellaini headed a Juan Mata corner on to the roof.

Luhansk maintained their shape in the second half and looked largely untroubled as United stepped up their efforts. The introduction of Wayne Rooney proved decisive as a cut back from Fosu-Mensah was unintentionally sliced by the Englishman towards Ibrahimovic. Using his brute power to hold off his marker, the Swedish striker headed the ball past keeper Oleksiy Shevchenko to break the deadlock.

There were a couple of nervous moments for the hosts thereafter but Luhansk had very little in the tank to fancy an equalizer. A tough night’s work for Mourinho and his side but three important points nonetheless.

Here is how they fared against the Ukrainians:

1. Sergio Romero (6/10):

The Argentinian barely had anything to do throughout the game. Was only required to make a routine save towards the end.

2. Timothy Fosu-Mensah (7/10):

Energetic and swift on the ball, Fosu-Mensah put in a good shift at right-back. Looked composed in defence and dangerous going forward with his overlapping runs. Supplied Rooney the pass which led to Ibrahimovic’s strike. Encouraging signs from the teenager.

3. Eric Bailly (7/10):

Picked up a reckless booking in the second half but commanded the backline alongside Chris Smalling comfortably. His searing pace was a telling factor as Luhansk’s forwards were unable to cause him any real problems.

4. Chris Smalling (7/10):

Made some darting runs into the opposition’s half and marshalled the rearguard well. Reminiscent of his displays for United last season.

5. Marcos Rojo (5/10):

The only player on the pitch who looked unsettled. Rojo was outmuscled by Oleksandr Karavaev on a couple of occasions and on that evidence, it is hard to see him returning to Premier League action anytime soon.

6. Marouane Fellaini (6/10):

Decent performance by the towering Belgian although his tendency to slow down the game meant Luhansk were largely untroubled in midfield. Missed a good opportunity in the first half. Definitely needs to do better.

7. Paul Pogba (7/10):

The Frenchman wasn’t at his flamboyant best on the night but showed enough intelligence both on and off the ball to regulate the game. Picked out the industrious Fosu-Mensah a few times with long cross-field passes. Clearly better with Ander Herrera partnering him in the centre.

8. Juan Mata (7/10):

Following an impressive display against Leicester City, Mata was slightly subdued against the Ukrainians. Was assigned set-piece duty and managed to pick out his teammates a couple of times. That aside, he struggled to make an impact.

9. Jesse Lingard (6/10):

United’s oldest academy graduate on the pitch on Thursday night looked steady but not up to the mark. Can do better.

10. Marcus Rashford (7/10):

A livewire for the majority of the first half, Rashford ought to have felt aggrieved, having watched his unstoppable strike hit the underside of the bar. Worked tirelessly both on and off the ball and troubled his marker with his pace.

11. Zlatan Ibrahimovic (7/10):

Dropped a bit too deep at times to invigorate his side in attack. Ibrahimovic had a tough night but capitalized on a rare opportunity spurned his way by heading Wayne Rooney’s mishit shot past the goalkeeper. Almost scored from a free-kick towards the end.

Substitutes:

1. Wayne Rooney (6/10):

Made a couple of good passes and looked lively. Ought to have scored from Fosu-Mensah’s pass and bagged an unorthodox assist instead.

2. Anthony Martial (5/10):

Made a dangerous run down the centre and drew a foul in a dangerous area. Will take him a while to get back to speed with the rhythm of football.

3. Ashley Young (5/10):

Did not have much to do at right-back. Got some extra minutes under his belt.