Draw may be cold comfort for United

PARIS • Manchester United face Zorya Luhansk today, knowing that a draw in frigid Ukraine will propel them into the knockout stages of the Europa League.

The Premier League side, however, will want to go through in style, even if Europe's second-tier club competition does not feature at the top of their priorities in Jose Mourinho's first season in charge.

United will also be eager to end a bout of frustrating draws, the latest being a 1-1 Premier League stalemate at Everton last Sunday, when they conceded an 89th-minute equaliser from the spot.

The match against Zorya will take place in Odessa, southern Ukraine, where temperatures will hover around freezing by evening kick-off.

Zorya might already be out of the competition, but United forward Anthony Martial is not expecting the Ukrainians to lie down.

"Over there, it's really cold at this time," he told MUTV. "But it's down to us to come to terms with that, adapt to the environment and get the victory we need."

Armenian midfielder Henrikh Mkhitaryan is eager to cement his place in the Manchester United starting line-up after a tough start to life at Old Trafford. PHOTO: REUTERS

United will also go through to the last 32 even if they lose if Feyenoord fail to beat Fenerbahce at home in the other Group A fixture.

As it stands, Fenerbahce are top of the group with 10 points, United are second on nine and Feyenoord are third on seven. Zorya only managed two points from five games.

One United player who is looking to continue his good run of form is Henrikh Mkhitaryan.

The midfielder has admitted that he has only himself to blame for his slow start since joining from Borussia Dortmund in the summer, saying that the problem does not lie with Mourinho.

Mkhitaryan started against Manchester City in the Premier League on Sept 10 and was then sidelined by his manager for nearly two months, with Mourinho indicating that he "lacks intensity" for the Premier League. The Armenian returned last month against Fenerbahce and has since played in the last four games for United.

"There was no bad relation with him (Mourinho), it was always good. The problem wasn't him, it was me," Mkhitaryan told Sky Sports. "I was thinking that I would be here as a starting line-up player but, when I arrived, I saw that there were 25 players fighting for their place and I understood that it is not going to be easy.

"Now I understand why I've got my chance and I will keep it."



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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on December 08, 2016, with the headline 'Draw may be cold comfort for United'. Print Edition | Subscribe