Rooney makes instant impact as Manchester United beats Zorya Luhansk in Europa League
Zlatan Ibrahimovic scores the winning goal on a Wayne Rooney assist. AP

MADRID — Wayne Rooney finally made a difference for Manchester United this season, setting up Zlatan Ibrahimovic's goal two minutes after being summoned off the bench to help them beat Ukraine's Zorya Luhansk 1-0 in the Europa League on Thursday (Friday, Manila time).

Inter Milan fell 3-1 at Sparta Prague to lose its second in a row in the European competition, while Mario Balotelli scored again but couldn't prevent Nice from losing at Russian side Krasnodar 5-2. The Italian striker was substituted at halftime with an apparent knee injury.

There was mixed reaction at Old Trafford when Jose Mourinho sent in the much-criticized Rooney in the 67th minute, but his misfired shot bounced to the far post, where Ibrahimovic nodded in.

Rooney was in good position inside the area after a cross from the right flank, but the ball hit off his knee as he attempted a shot, going across the area toward Ibrahimovic.

"We deserved to win but it was difficult," Mourinho said. "They were very well organized defensively as we expected. We had to play, I won't say amazingly well because we didn't, but we had to play well to win."

Mourinho didn't start Rooney after saying he wanted to protect his captain from a media backlash if he had another poor performance.

It was a crucial win for United, which was coming off a 1-0 loss at Feyenoord in its Europa League opener. The English side moved off the bottom of Group A. Turkey's Fenerbahce, which defeated Feyenoord 1-0 at home, led by a point after two matches.

United controlled possession against Zorya but created very few scoring chances, with the best early on when Marcus Rashford struck the crossbar.

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