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Mourinho on Mkhitaryan: “We gave him freedom to play in attacking positions”

Manchester United have taken the advantaged in the UEFA Europa League Round of 16 clash with FC Rostov after drawing 1-1 in Russia and getting the important away goal that Jose Mourinho would’ve been looking for. Henrikh Mkhitaryan opened up the scoring in the 35 minute after some brilliant work from Marouane Fellaini who brought the ball under pressure and then releasing the ball to Zlatan Ibrahimovic who set up the Armenian to grab the all-important away goal. The game looked to be going well for United after going in at half time 1-0 up and looking very confident, but 10 minutes in the second half  Rostov sent a long ball over the top to Alexander Bukharov who didn’t brilliantly to bring the ball down put it out of Sergio Romero’s reach to make the game all square. The game in general pretty much died after that, pretty much like state of the pitch really.

Jose Mourinho spoke after the match about the state of the pitch, the change of formation, the Rostov fans and the importance of the away goal;

Mourinho on the state of the pitch and why they could not play better

“It was a very good performance in relation to the conditions. It was impossible to play better, impossible to play a passing game. We played what the game demanded and we played well. We made one defensive mistake. We have an open result for the second leg with a little advantage for us. There are no injuries. I think we had a positive result. We know we need to win or to have a 0-0 draw so the game is open, the tie is open. But, in these circumstances, I think it was a good result.”

Mourinho on the change of formation 

“The game plan was that we know they don’t try to play – they tried to put the ball always to the front, into their strikers. That’s the way they play on this pitch and so the best thing to do was to play three at the back.”

Mourinho on the Rostov fans

“I think everything was magnificent. People have been nice to us since we landed, in the game they supported their team like it should be done. Our supporters behaved properly and, on the pitch, it was an example – the players fought really hard for every ball but in a positive way. Hopefully the Rostov fans who go to Old Trafford next week have great conditions now to be welcomed and for everything to be an example.”

Mourinho on the away goal being valuable?

“An away goal is always positive; it’s better 1-1 than 0-0, obviously. But the game is open, the result is open and this Rostov team has experience of playing big matches, big opponents, big stadiums. I don’t think it’s a problem for them to go to Old Trafford and play us. They play Sunday against Terek Grozny, we play Monday against Chelsea – they know they have more time. It’s more difficult but we are one step from the quarter-finals. Old Trafford will push us and hopefully, we’ll get to the quarter-finals.”

Mourinho on the fitness of Henrikh Mkhitaryan after the 1-1 draw to Rostov

“We know he cannot play 90 minutes. We knew he would only play 60 minutes – it doesn’t matter [what] the result [was], we made that decision together as he is not in the best condition. 

“We gave him freedom to play in attacking positions with Zlatan, to try to find spaces to score. He did well and managed to finish the game without injury, which is important for us.”

United will now go back to Old Trafford for the second leg go tie to finish the game off after getting the important away goal in the first leg. The Red Devils could finish the tie of if they score two early goals in the game on Thursday which could put United on course to win other trophies this season.

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