Belfast Telegraph

Manchester United in cruise control for comfortable win in Ukraine

By Steve Tongue

Midfielder Henrik Mkhitaryan admitted Manchester United had been below par until his first goal for the club put them on the way to a comfortable 2-0 win against Zorya Luhansk in Ukraine and a place in the last 32 of the Europa League.

"The first half was a little difficult, not so good, because we could not find the last pass," said Mkhitaryan, joined on the scoresheet by Zlatan Ibrahimovic.

"But in the second half we created space for the wingers and the strikers."

The Armenian added: “ I was waiting a long time for this goal. My next goal has to be at Old Trafford because I want to score at home.”

Manager Jose Mourinho was delighted with the former Borussia Dortmund player, who has been slow to make an impact since signing in the summer.

“It was a strong mentality,” he said of Mkhitaryan’s attitude. “He was determined to fight against his difficult adaptation.

“He worked hard physically and tactically — the talent was there, we knew that when we bought him. Now he’s playing well — in the Premier League, the Europa League and the EFL Cup, and now the goal means a little more happiness for him, so I am very pleased.

“We played well. One thing is to play badly and get bad results, which kills confidence and is more difficult to cope with.

“When you play well, you have to hope the results will come. The reality is nobody was better than us (in recent weeks), even though we had disappointing results. And in the players’ brains, that plays a part.”

Though the game had been in doubt due to freezing weather conditions, Mourinho paid tribute for the hard work undertaken to ensure the match took place — and had special words of praise for United’s opponents.

“The pitch was better today than yesterday and was good enough to play football and we appreciate the efforts of (host club) Chenomorets and Zorya. There are no miracles with this cold weather so we appreciate the effort,” he added.

“I think the coach is very good because the team are very well organised, in spite of no victories.

“The group was very difficult with three very good teams, and they competed with them all.

“I did my homework and analysed their players and quality, and I understand why they are third in the (Ukrainian) league. Hopefully, next season, they will be in the Europa League and have more experience, and my hope is that next time they can play at home, though this is a beautiful stadium.”

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