Manchester United cruised to a 4-0 victory over Feyenoord at Old Trafford thanks to stellar performances from Henrikh Mkhitaryan, Wayne Rooney and Juan Mata, boosting their hopes of reaching the Europa League knockout stage.
José Mourinho selected an attacking line-up to face the Eredivisie table toppers, with outcast Mikhitaryan making only his second start of the season alongside Mata and Rooney in the attacking midfield roles behind striker Zlatan Ibrahimovic.
United started positively as Paul Pogba headed over from eight yards out and Mkhitaryan almost broke through after some delightful interplay with Rooney, but the England captain’s return pass was slightly overcooked.
After 18 minutes, Pogba fizzed an effort at goal from 20 yards which was tipped over by Feyenoord goalkeeper Brad Jones. The resultant corner culminated with Michael Carrick stroking a measured left-footed shot from the edge of the box which almost squirmed in.
Feyenoord came within a whisker of breaking the deadlock against the run of play in the 26th minute, but a brilliant double save from Sergio Romero(!!!) denied Dirk Kuyt and Nicolai Jorgensen after winger Eljero Elia had burst past Phil Jones to create the opening.
After United had regained their composure they again went close. A chipped pass from Pogba picked out Mkhitaryan at the far post. The Armenian’s sliding shot was comfortably saved by Jones; had it gone in it wouldn’t have counted as the linesman was already flagging for offside.
The homeside finally made the break through in the 35th minute, when Rooney lifted the ball over Jones and into the net from eight yards after some excellent work from Ibrahimovic, who drew two defenders before sliping the ball through to the number 10.
With that strike — which could arguably have been ruled offside — Rooney became United’s all-time highest scorer in European competiton with 39 goals.
The Red Devils started the second half intent on doubling their lead. A sustained period of pressure saw Mkhiratyan set off on a driving run from the halfway line beofre apparently being hauled down when through on goal, but the referee saw no infringement.
Shortly after, Mata tried to delicately chip Jones from the edge of the penalty area but the former Liverpool keeper managed to push the ball over the bar at full stretch.
United had the ball in the net in the 55th minute when Mata tapped in after Mkhitaryan’s shot was deflected into his path, but the Spaniard was offside.
Some fans inside the ground thought the home side had scored a second when Mkhitaryan lashed a left-footed effort at goal after a one-two with Ibrahimovic, but the former Borussia Dortmund player’s shot crashed wide of the near post and into the side netting.
United got their second after 69 minutes through Mata who benefitted from a beautiful reverse pass from Rooney to slot the ball home from 10 yards; he was then promptly taken off and replaced by Marcus Rashford.
The Premier League side almost had another seconds later as Mkhitaryan put Ibrahimovic through on goal, but the Swede fired his shot straight at Jones; had he lifted his strike slightly, he’d have been celebrating his ninth goal of the season.
Ibrahimovic made up for his profligacy in the 75th minute when his attempted cut-back deflected in off Jones for 3-0. The former Ajax star will want to claim it but it will go down as an own goal by the Australian goalkeeper.
With 10 minutes to play, Rooney and Mkhitaryan left the field to a standing ovation in recognition of their fine displays; Jesse Lingard and Memphis Depay came on in their place.
Lingard looked to make the most of his opportunity with a couple 20-yard shots in quick succession, but Jones was equal to both attempts.
And in stoppage time the England winger got his goal, curling in from 20 yards to cap a comfortable victory for United. A point in their final group game against Zorya will see them through.