Zlatan Ibrahimovic headed in a 69th-minute winner as Manchester United got their Europa League campaign off the ground with a laboured 1-0 home win over Zorya Luhansk on Thursday.
Beaten 1-0 at Feyenoord in their Group A opener, Jose Mourinho’s side struggled to break down their unadventurous Ukrainian opponents until the introduction from the bench of Wayne Rooney.
The England captain’s mishit shot was headed in by Ibrahimovic to leave United a point behind group leaders Fenerbahce, who visit Old Trafford on October 20.
“It was difficult,” said Mourinho. “We had our chances in the first half. We could have scored and it would have been a different match. But we didn’t.
“They kept organised and had plenty of players behind the ball, but with players ready to do something on the counter-attack. It was difficult and we needed to win.
“One week, three defeats. One week, three victories. But I was not depressed by the defeats and I am not over the moon with three wins.”
It was a far from fluent United performance, but it maintained their upturn in form following the recent run of three straight defeats that had destroyed their early-season momentum.
Zorya, Uefa group-phase debutants, became United’s 100th continental opponents and they threatened to create a sensation when Zeljko Ljubenovic ballooned over from Ivan Petriak’s cut-back.
In the main, though, they sat back, packing men behind the ball in a 4-5-1 formation, and United struggled to play through them.
Ibrahimovic had a shot deflected wide by Dmytro Grechyshkin, but as in last Saturday’s 4-1 win over league champions Leicester City, the hosts looked most threatening from corners in the first half.
With Daley Blind rested, Juan Mata took over set-piece duties.
From one of the Spaniard’s deliveries, Paul Pogba flicked on and Marcus Rashford rattled a shot against the bar, the ball bouncing down a foot short of the line.