|Zlatan Ibrahimovic was on hand to spare United's Europa League blushes|
Stats like 80% ball possession with only two shots on target are the reason we grew dissatisfied with the previous management of the club. Perhaps this was another example of lasting traits of that regime. United dominated play and yet seemed vulnerable on the counter-attack after a break-down in possession in the final third.
With the International break affording Zlatan Ibrahimovic a week off, Jose Mourinho started the Swede in what ultimately turned out as a strong selection for a competition that hardly gets Old Trafford full. Indeed, this was Old Trafford's first Group stage fixture of the competition. A strong set up meant that United were better for it than they were in Holland for the opener against Feynoord if only because of their dominance.
The Europa league remains an itch that United are struggling to scratch on this end of the football calender as manager and players come to terms with Thursday and Sunday afternoon fixtures. The first sequence of such games this season saw United lose both their European fixture and the premier league clash to Watford early on the Sunday.
United successfully negotiated the first leg of this next sequence last night. Wayne Rooney turned in a spectacular accidental assist borne of a complete miscue to tee up the big Swede to node in his first Euro goal for the club. Astonishingly, that was only United's first shot on target. Louis van Gaal would have been pleased.
United now have to contend with a Sunday midday tie against a struggling Stoke City side within the next 48 hours. Thankfully for Mourinho, it eases the pressures of preparation given that it is in fact another home game. However the same luxury will not be afforded on the other side of the International break. In a space of two weeks, United will have to contend with trips to Anfield and Stamford Bridge with a game against Fernabache drafted in between and an EFL Cup fixture against City soon thereafter. It's easy to see how next month could easily define the first half of United's season.
For now though, another three points at Stoke will make it four straight wins and will firmly put the club past the torrid week in which they suffered three defeats in a week. It also helps to go into recess on the back of a win as opposed to a fortnight-long bitter taste in the mouth following defeat.