MANCHESTER UNITED victory against Zorya may have been in freezing conditions, but will warm the spirits of Red Devils fans across the globe.
Whilst a 2 – 0 away victory against a side that hasn’t won in any of its last six games is hardly a cup victory, it means they are through in a competition that they should take seriously.
The gap between Jose Mourinho’s men and fourth spot is nine points, and whilst that is by no means an unassailable gap to bridge, with Chelsea, Arsenal, Liverpool and Manchester City all in good nick; it’s difficult to argue that one of those clubs will lose out to a United side that have been toothless the past month.
And United indeed looked to have taken the Europa League seriously by their performance.
The Red Devils bossed the game throughout, with Paul Pogba and Ander Herrera making a formidable duo in the middle that controlled the game, and allowed the forwards more confidence to get at a sheepish Zorya defence.
That being said, the old problems of United in front of goal reared their ugly head.
Key to this is the fact they only registered seven of their 19 shots on target, and the performance of Zlatan Ibrahimovic often lacking mobility in the first half to turn half chances into clear cut ones. He may have scored tonight, and six goals in seven games, but on performance doesn’t deserve such a generous figure.
The Red Devils’ midfield however, compensated in earnest. Henrikh Mkhitaryan was outstanding, and he is now starting to show the form that saw him awarded Bundesliga player of the season.
His movement impressed, cutting inside often to create chances and finding himself in goal scoring situations.
It was also something deeper than that, he had a swagger and confidence, the bravery he showed to run at defenders at the start of the second half when deadlocked at 0-0 before scoring was evident of a player who believes he is in the top echelons of the game.
Despite this being one of United’s more solid performances, concerns will still be present. United struggled to put Zorya, a team already out of the competition, to the sword in what was essentially a dead rubber game.
The real test for United in the Europa League, a competition United could quite easily win, is that when they go to San Mames or the Amsterdam Arena.
Evidence of this is when they made the trip to Turkey to play Fenerbahce, United were dismantled. Even in the latter stages of Sir Alex Ferguson’s reign The Red Devils struggled to beat teams like Bilbao, and with United lacking the full Fergie swagger in Europe; their chances in the competition may be limited.