Following two wins on the bounce, on match-day two, Manchester United will play their second game in succession at Old Trafford, against Ukrainian side Zorya Luhansk.
The Red Devils have had a decent start to their Premier League campaign with four wins in their first six games but in Europe, their struggles away from home have continued, as a narrow 1-0 loss at Feyenoord have made things tougher in a group which can be tricky for any side; all the more so after a loss in the opening weekend. Mourinho has talked about rotating his squad to utilise his 26-man squad to the fullest, but it will be interesting to see how many big players he can afford to rest if United were to finish top of their group and qualify for the knockout stages of the competition, which is expected of them.
For Zorya, this is a fixture they must have been waiting for since the draw was made. Forward Jaba Lipartia remarked,
“It’s more like a Champions League group than a Europa League one”
It does, in some ways and this, being their first meeting against an English opposition, and the amount of attention they may garner if they manage to upset three time European cup winners in their own backyard, suggests they will be up for it from minute one. They almost beat Fenerbahce, only denied in the fifth minute of stoppage time after taking the lead early in the second half. They will be fairly confident about getting a result at Old Trafford, which can really give them a chance to make it to the next round.
There could be a lot of changes from the side that started in the 4-1 win against Leicester. Ibrahimovic is given a rest and is not expected to feature in the match-day squad but Luke Shaw and Henrikh Mkhitaryan should be involved in some capacity after the manager confirmed they are not injured.
Knowing the significance of this fixture, Zorya boss Yuriy Vernydub is expected to go with his strongest 11, meaning no changes could be seen from the side that almost came away with all three points against Fenerbahce in the opening game.
United are unbeaten in 11 European home games (W8 D3) since a 2-1 UEFA Champions League round of 16 loss to Real Madrid in March 2013. By contrast, they have won only once in their last six UEFA Cup and UEFA Europa League fixtures at Old Trafford (W1 D3 L2).
Zorya’s seven European away matches to date have ended W4 D1 L2, and they have failed just once to score on the road in a UEFA competition, averaging a little under two goals a game on their travels.
Wayne Rooney – Manchester United
The England and Manchester United captain has come under massive criticism of late which culminated into his exclusion from the starting line-up against Leicester City last weekend that ended 4-1 in favour of the Red Devils. This has put him under some pressure now that he has to perform to find his way back into the side – and Zorya could be the perfect opponent for him to rediscover his goal-scoring form. The 31-year old needs one more goal to join Ruud van Nistelrooy as United’s all-time top marksman in UEFA competitions with 37 goals and the skipper will be key to United doing well in the Europa League this campaign.
Dmytro Grechyshkin – Zorya Luhansk
Zorya played a 4-4-1-1 against Fenerbahce in the opening fixture and Grechyskin played a crucial role in midfield – controlling the tempo of the game although they had only 41% of possession on the night. He popped up with a vital goal which was only cancelled out in stoppage time and against Man United’s midfield, it will be fascinating to see if he can rise up to, perhaps the toughest test he has faced in his career.
Manchester United to win this quite comfortably despite a late Zorya fightback.
Manchester United 3-1 Zorya Luhansk