United have been the better side all season, insists Jose

Midfielder Henrikh Mkhitaryan celebrates his first Manchester United goal during the Europa League match against Zorya Luhansk. He opened the scoring in the 48th minute and Zlatan Ibrahimovic sealed the 2-0 win in the 88th minute.
Midfielder Henrikh Mkhitaryan celebrates his first Manchester United goal during the Europa League match against Zorya Luhansk. He opened the scoring in the 48th minute and Zlatan Ibrahimovic sealed the 2-0 win in the 88th minute.PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

ODESSA (Ukraine) • Jose Mourinho insisted that no team are better than his Manchester United side after they reached the last 32 of the Europa League with a 2-0 win over Zorya Luhansk on Thursday.

Henrikh Mkhitaryan and Zlatan Ibrahimovic scored as United secured victory on what was an uncomfortable night in Odessa.

Goalkeeper Sergio Romero was almost hit by a firecracker that went off inside his penalty area and Daley Blind complained of having a laser pen shone in his eye.

Videos also emerged of United fans being charged by riot police using batons and there were also altercations with home fans.

Progress in this competition is a welcome positive for Mourinho after his side's stuttering Premier League form, having drawn their past three matches prior to tomorrow's home game against Tottenham Hotspur.

"The reality was, nobody was better than us, even when we had disappointing results," said the United manager. "We have been playing well, that's why our heads have not gone down. When you play well and you don't win matches, you always have the hope that the good results will come."

European football's governing body Uefa is likely to fine Zorya for the incidents involving their fans.

Mourinho added: "The support was beautiful but they don't need to do that to make it more beautiful because it was dangerous for the goalkeeper."

Mkhitaryan registered his first goal for United with a superb solo effort in which he slipped between two Zorya defenders before beating the goalkeeper.

"I think it can be a weight off my shoulders," the Armenian said. "I have waited a long time for this goal."

Mourinho also praised Mkhitaryan, who has hit form after a difficult start to life at Old Trafford following a £30 million (S$53.66 million) move from Borussia Dortmund in the off-season.

"He has a strong mentality," said the Portuguese. "He was very determined to fight against his difficult adaptation and he's doing that in the best way.

"He worked really hard physically and tactically, and the talent we know is still there.

"He fought to improve tactically and physically, and now he is playing good in the Premier League, Europa League and the League Cup, so I'm very pleased."

United are six points behind fifth-place Tottenham.

Mourinho's side are now unbeaten in seven matches in all competitions but have drawn six of their last eight matches in the league.

The Portuguese, however, insisted that his team's form is not as bad as everyone is making out.

"We have always been better than our opponents so we have never lost confidence," Mourinho said.

THE TIMES, LONDON, THE GUARDIAN

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on December 10, 2016, with the headline 'United have been the better side all season, insists Jose'. Print Edition | Subscribe