Jose Mourinho’s Manchester United side travel to Ukraine on Thursday to face Zorya Luhansk in the early match of the day in the final round of group matches in this season’s Europa League. As we know this is not a competition United have traditionally done well in as previous manager Sir Alex Ferguson was not a big fan of the Europa League and therefore did not place much emphasis on it resulting in early exits from it whenever United did end up competing.
United have only played Zorya Luhansk once in the past and that was back on match day two of this year’s competition and that day saw United play out a far from convincing 1-0 win on the back of what is now becoming an obligatory strike from Zlatan Ibrahimovic. Where United would be without the legendary Swede’s goals this campaign is hard to comprehend but it certainly would not be anywhere good.
United have their destiny in the competition resting firmly in their own hands as a win or a draw would see them move onto the knockout phase. Clearly the win would be preferable for the simple reason that they would then likely finish as group winners and could benefit from a slightly easier draw. While United have come out as winners in 5 of their last 6 European matches played against Ukrainian opposition with only 1 tie, they have only won 1 game out of their last 3 games played in Ukraine when they beat Dynamo Kyiv convincingly 4-2 way back in October of 2007. The Red-Devils did manage to tie the other 2 games most recently played in Ukraine so you would think that the form book is on their side but looking at things a little more closely reveals that this challenge may prove rather difficult. Manchester United have actually lost 8 of their last 9 European away games (not including qualification games of any sort) only managing 1 draw.
So clearly Jose Mourinho will need to pick a strong side to address the challenge facing his team in Ukraine and the players he selects will need to deliver for the club as they do not need to suffer anymore big disappointments this season. A win will go some way towards maintaining their fragile confidence which took another hit this past Sunday when Everton managed to secure a point in the Premier League as United’s performance was deserving of better which is becoming all too frequent this season.