Zorya Luhansk 0-2 Manchester United: Lessons learned from difficult game in Odessa

Zorya Luhansk 0-2 Manchester United: Lessons learned from difficult game in Odessa

It was a cold 90 minutes for Manchester United as they beat Zorya Luhansk with a 2-0 scoreline that got the job done for the Red Devils.

Ninad Barbadikar

It was a game that Manchester United simply could not afford against Zorya Luhansk, and the Red Devils ensured their progress in the Europa League with a 2-0 victory thanks to Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Henrikh Mkhitaryan.

United didn't create many chances in the first half and the home side took advantage of the laid-back nature of the visitors' game as Igor Kharatin tested Sergio Romero with a long range drive.

For the rest of the half, the Red Devils were largely in control in terms of possession but couldn't create goalscoring opportunities for themselves and the half ended on a dull note for the travelling United supporters.

The second half was where United turned up and sealed the game. Mkhitaryan providing the spark from midfield and scoring a magnificent solo goal, giving United the lead early in the second half.

That goal gave United a bit of confidence and they eased off once again and allowed Zorya spaces to exploit, the home side came very close to equalising when Mikhail Sivakov went close with a header from a set-piece, but Romero had it covered.

Late in the game, Ibrahimovic latched onto a great through ball by Paul Pogba and scored United's second to ensure the victory.

With United progressing with each game, what more do they need to learn from this victory in Odessa?

United will need to prepare for poor pitches

Jose Mourinho named a strong eleven for this game, which was important for United to win to ensure smooth qualification from the group stages as group winners and they did just that, but once again, the first half ended without any goals for the Red Devils  and much of United's struggles in the first half might have been due to the poor state of the pitch.

In Ukraine, winter can be very unforgiving and despite Zorya's groundsmen's best efforts, the pitch was a very difficult terrain to play on. The ball bounced awkwardly on many occasions, which led to some careless loss of possession on United's part.

Although things got better in the second half, Mourinho will know that his team will have to prepare better for pitches like this as they go further into the stages of the Europa League.

United need to start killing off teams quicker

As much as Mourinho has changed things around in terms of tactics and performances, one complaint of the players has been that they do not finish their chances quicker and take an early lead to control the game.

This laid-back approach gives the opposition more and more confidence to exploit United's weaknesses on the counter and also in set-piece situations, both of which Zorya did, but Romero was up to the task.

The longer United wait to score the first goal, the more pressure they're under and the more time they give the opposition to time their attacks, therefore United need to learn to score early goals if they truly intend to show their domination on the scoreline.

Zorya might not have had much to trouble United's defence, but as they go deeper into the Europa League, teams will be tougher and will take their chances. Mourinho will be sure to make his players realise that and definitely urge them to kill the oppositions' confidence by getting an early goal, which in turn sets the tone for a comfortable outing.

Pogba and Mata suited to the 4-3-3 better than 4-2-3-1

Although the performance was good enough to get the job done, Pogba and Juan Mata, two players that have been playing really well this season so far, underperformed against the Ukranian opposition.

Mourinho opted to change his system and went with a 4-2-3-1, instead of the 4-3-3 which has been so effective for the Red Devils. This affected the performances of Mata and Pogba, both performing slightly under par, particularly in the first half.

Mata did little of note and too many times was caught out wide and away from the game, while Pogba never looked in his place in the deeper holding midfield role that he was played in. Mourinho will know better after this game that the 4-3-3 is where United play best and the performances of the players are much better with that formation.

Ahead of the weekend's clash against Tottenham Hotspur, Mourinho and his players will intend to get re-energised as soon as they can, because Spurs will be a tricky test and a victory against the Lilywhites will go a long way in boosting confidence as well as get them closer to the top four place they hope to achieve.