Manchester United can perhaps be forgiven for not producing a particularly inspiring performance given the conditions inside the Chornomorets Stadium, where the icy pitch required a late inspection in order for the game to go ahead.
Jose Mourinho’s men needed a point to ensure their progression to the last-32 of the Europa League. Thanks to a wonderful solo goal from Henrikh Mkhitaryan and a late Zlatan Ibrahimovic strike, the strong Red Devils line-up secured a victory in an otherwise unremarkable match.
United started fairly brightly but struggled to break the home side down, as Zorya sat back and defended deeply with a line of as many as six players across their penalty area at times. The closest the Red Devils came in the opening half an hour was with a well-hit left-footed Paul Pogba effort from 25 yards which flew just wide.
On rare Zorya break, Olexandr Karavayev’s volley had to be tipped around the post by Sergio Romero. Shortly after, Eric Bailly, on his return from injury, atampted an acrobatic bicycle kick from a United corner, but the Ivorian couldn’t make a telling connection with the ball.
The dour first half drew to a close with Wayne Rooney aiming a 25-yard strike at goal which had to be tipped over by Igor Levchenko; it was a rare moment of quality in an largely uninteresting 45 minutes.
Early in the second period Mkhitaryan produced a moment of magic to break the deadlock. The Armenian schemer picked up the ball just inside the Zorya half and burst away from two defenders, before calmly slotting home to give United the lead.
Second half substitute Emmanuel Bonaventure brought a degree of dynamism to the home side’s attack, and Bailly was twice on hand to prevent the Nigerian from getting a clear sight of goal.
Jesse Lingard and Marouane Fellaini replaced Juan Mata and Wayne Rooney midway through the second half; United fans could be forgiven for wondering why the Belgian was being introduced again to protect a narrow lead after clumsily conceding a penalty in similar circumstances at the weekend.
And in the 72nd minute Romero was forced into action when, from a free-kick out wide, Mikhail Sivakov escaped the attentions of Fellaini to arrow a header at goal; the Argentinian keeper got down well to his left to make the block.
With one eye on Sunday’s visit of Tottenham Hotspur to Old Trafford, Mkhitaryan was brought off with 10 minutes to play; the former Borussia Dortmund star now appears crucial to United’s season, having inexplicably been kept on the sidelines for so long.
With three minutes to play, Pogba produced a suberb half-volleyed pass from inside his own half to release Ibrahimovic. The veteran Swede burst through on goal without a challenge and finished emphatically to seal a comfortable win.