News ID: 169464
Published: 0728 GMT September 28, 2016

Europa League Ukrainian underdog to visit Manchester United

Europa League Ukrainian underdog to visit Manchester United
Manchester United's Chris Smalling heads the ball during his team's UEFA Europa League Group A match against Feyenoord Rotterdam, at the Feyenoord Stadium in Rotterdam on September 15, 2016.
EMMANUEL DUNAND/AFP

Manchester United hosts unheralded Ukrainians Zorya Luhansk at Old Trafford today with Jose Mourinho's side aiming to get its Europa League campaign off the ground after a bumpy start.

Mourinho's reluctant contenders in Europe's second-tier club competition kicked off their campaign with a 1-0 defeat at Feyenoord in Rotterdam a fortnight ago, AFP wrote.

That Dutch disaster, which left United bottom of Group A, was the second of three consecutive reverses in between Premier League losses to Manchester City and then Watford.

But United welcomes the side which sits second in the Ukrainian Premier League with a renewed spring in its step after its weekend rout of English champion Leicester City.

Captain Wayne Rooney missed the trip to Feyenoord and Mourinho also left him on the bench for Saturday's emphatic 4-1 victory.

If he returns and scores, Rooney will join Ruud van Nistelrooy as United's all-time top scorer in Europe with 37 goals.

Zlatan Ibrahimovic misses the tie after being granted time off by Mourinho who could welcome back Henrikh Mkhitaryan.

The 27-year-old Armenian playmaker, a £26 million ($34.5 million, €30.7 million) signing from Borussia Dortmund, has missed United's last four games with a thigh problem.

Zorya travels to Manchester after an opening 1-1 draw with Fenerbahce. Midfielder Zeljko Ljubenovic spelt out the task facing him and his teammates.

"I watched their last match against Laicester. Hopefully we will manage to play better than Laicester did," the Belgrade-born 35-year-old told his club's website.

He added, "We need to play very carefully in defense. I hope we'll be able to get a positive result.

"But I'm happy anyway that we will have a chance to test ourselves against such an opponent. And if we make mistakes we'll have a chance to do our homework for the return leg."

Group A rival Fenerbahce and Feyenoord meet in Istanbul with Dirk Kuyt, now the captain of the Dutch side, going back to face the club he represented for three years until 2015.

Unlike United, Premier League rival Southampton enjoyed the perfect start to its campaign with a 3-0 home defeat of Sparta Prague.

That was Claude Puel's first win as Saints' manager and the Frenchman will be looking for more of the same from his Group K leader against Hapoel Beer-Sheva in Israel.

Sparta is in turmoil after firing its coach Zenek Scasny on Monday ahead of Inter Milan's visit.

It's a must-win game for both sides after Inter was stunned 2-0 at home by Hapoel in its opener.

Elsewhere today, Young Boys creates a slice of Swiss history when it embarks on a 9,100-kilometre Group B return trip to Kazakhstan to face Astana — the furthest away game any club from Switzerland has ever played.

Sassuolo, which enjoyed a dream 3-0 win over 2012 finalist Athletic Bilbao to kick off its first ever Europa League campaign, are at Genk, while French Ligue 1 leader Nice is at Russian outfit Krasnodar.

   
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Resource: AFP
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