Manchester United qualified for the Europa League knock out stages on Thursday, 08 November after edging Zorya Luhansk 0-2 with Henrikh Mkhitaryan striking his first club goal at the 48th minute as Zlatan Ibrahimovic doubled the score at the 88th minute.
The Red Devils dominated in the Ukrainian city of Odessa, but long-range efforts from Wayne Rooney and Paul Pogba were their best moments despite having 76% of first-half possession.
But Mkhitaryan, who has now started three games in a row, dribbled from halfway to apply a cool finish after the break.
A key save from Sergio Romero maintained the lead before Zlatan Ibrahimovic raced clear to slot home as United progressed behind Fenerbahce, who won at Feyenoord.
Jose Mourinho’s side are now favourites for the competition with most bookmakers but in finishing second in Group A, they go into Monday’s last-32 draw as an unseeded side.
United ground out a first win away from home in the Europa League this season on a pitch he described as “difficult” leading up to the fixture.
Though their final ball was often slack – leading to some visible Mourinho frustration in the first half – they stuck to the task, none more so than Mkhitaryan, who showed balance and poise to create his goal.
His haul of a goal and two assists in his run of three starts begs the question as to why Mourinho has not used him regularly since a £26m summer move. But United fans are starting to see the type of quality which saw him named Bundesliga players’ player of the season ahead of his move to Old Trafford.
More positives arrive in the fact players such as David De Gea and Anthony Martial were rested – United face Tottenham on Sunday – while Ibrahimovic’s form is gathering momentum – his late finish was his sixth goal in seven matches.
The sight of central defender Eric Bailly completing a fixture for the first time since October will also please Mourinho. The Ivorian – out with a knee injury since October – looked composed, decisive and even shook off a nasty collision to continue late on.