Manchester United edged a fighting Zorya 1-0 in the Europa League on Thursday night to register their first win in Europe under Jose Mourinho.
Manchester United went into the game buoyed by the 4-1 win against Leicester City, but found themselves struggling to create chances against a resilient Zorya side. Rashford hit the crossbar in the first half, but there was a genuine lack of pace and drive in the Manchester United attack, which was in stark contrast to their game against the Foxes.
In the second half, a badly fluffed shot from Wayne Rooney fell in Zlatan Ibrahimvoic’s path and the Swede headed it into the net to give United all three points. TheHardTackle takes a look at some of the significant talking points from the match.
1. Zlatan is better than wine
The 34-year-old was said to be nearing the end of his career when he joined Manchester United this summer. However, the Swede has now scored 6 goals already for the Red Devils in all competitions, including the winner against Zorya, alleviating all doubts as to his ability to have an impact at his age. The Swede also seems to have hit an instant chord with the Red Devils faithful.
— WhoScored.com (@WhoScored) September 29, 2016
Zlatan is like wine, only better. Wine gets better with age and even though Zlatan has shown similar signs of improvement with age, the Swede has been dominant and prolific throughout his career. The 34-year-old seems to have an insatiable desire for success and it is that very hunger that is the key to his glorious record.
2. Manchester United display a case of inconsistent brilliance
Manchester United’s defeat of Leicester showed their attacking and creative prowess but even in that match, they looked vulnerable at times in the second half. Against Zorya, the Red Devils showed their creative brilliance in moments with some magnificent passes and link-up play, but the brilliance was not sustained — something which should concern Jose Mourinho.
United have shown they are capable of dismantling a side even as good as Leicester on their day, but they must begin to replicate it in each and every game if they are to challenge for the top honours come May.
3. Fosu-Mensah poses right-back solution for Jose Mourinho with solid display
Timothy Fosu-Mensah was handed his first start of the season and the young Dutchman would have given Mourinho food for thought with his impressive display. While he did have some trouble early on in the game defending against the threat posed by Zorya’s 22-year-old winger Petryak, the teenager started feeling more comfortable as the game progressed.
Timothy Fosu-Mensah’s game by numbers vs. Zorya:
88% pass acc.
3/3 aerial duels won
1 chance created pic.twitter.com/77i7neynKh
— Squawka Football (@Squawka) September 30, 2016
The 18-year-old ran up and down the pitch with vigour and it was Fosu-Mensah who created the chance that led to the goal. The versatile youngster dribbled past two players on the right side before finding Rooney with a perfect ball. His general willingness to help his teammates in both defence and attack is sure to please Mourinho as well.
4. Ivan Petryak shows signs of star potential as Zorya provide a good fight
The 22-year-old was arguably Zorya’s best attacking player, while defender Rafael Forster also gave a good account of himself for the Ukrainian side. However, it was the Shakhtar Donetsk loanee who impressed the most as he troubled the United defence with his trickery and pace whenever given the chance.
Petryak was bought by Shakhtar before this season from Zorya and was immediately loaned back to the club. However, judging by his displays, it won’t be long before he is able to lock down a place in Shakhtar’s first-team and attract clubs from other parts of Europe.
5. UEFA and other governing bodies must apply stricter rules for simulation
Another constant feature in Manchester United’s game against Zorya at Old Trafford in the Europa League was the simulation, where players seem to fall down too easily at the slightest contact. Petryak was impressive, but he was guilty of going down easily more than twice in the match even when there was no sign of contact from a Manchester United player — something which infuriated Jose Mourinho.
Petryak was not the only one however, as Zlatan also earned a free kick in the first half in a dangerous area outside the box with a similar trick. There were many other instances of players exaggerating contact, including a free kick earned by a Zorya player against Marouane Fellaini. Simulation in the game has increased over time and the governing bodies must instruct the referees to take a stricter approach.