Manchester United beat FC Rostov 1-0 at Old Trafford in the UEFA Europa League with a Juan Mata goal, assisted by Zlatan Ibrahimovic to earn a quarter-final place in the competition for the first time. A year ago United exited at this stage at the hands of Liverpool, getting at least one stage further this season. Sergio Romero cannot go unmentioned for his heroics, pulling off more than one world-class save to keep United in tomorrow’s draw.
Jose Mourinho made five changes from the side who were defeated 1-0 by Chelsea at Stamford Bridge on Monday evening. Sergio Romero, Eric Bailly, Daley Blind, Juan Mata and Zlatan Ibrahimovic all returned to the starting XI for the second leg clash with FC Rostov in the Europa League. Mourinho kept his five at the back formation, which had worked in the previous two matches with Rostov and Chelsea, but on Monday night the sending off of Ander Herrera unsettled run of play, ruining it for the away side. United started well on the attack, pressuring the Russian side, nearly opening the scoring in the fifth minute.
United had the lion’s share of possession during the first 25 minutes, but Rostov were parking the bus the majority of the time. United were getting chances forward, but other than the chance inside the first five minutes and the chance in the 16th minute, there was little threatening the Russian side. United were playing a 3-4-2-1 formation with Smalling, Bailly, and Rojo at the back, Valencia, Herrera, Pogba and Blind in midfield, Mkhitaryan and Mata playing behind Ibrahimovic. In the 27th minute, United were unlucky not to be awarded a penalty as it looked like the Russian keeper shoved Mkhitaryan aside, but nothing was awarded.
Mkhitaryan was unlucky not to score moments later which a shot, which just missed the target with United looking resurgent on the attack. In the 35th minute, Zlatan Ibrahimovic his an effort which struck the post with United seemingly not able to buy a goal so far in the match. The best team on the pitch were bringing the game into Rostov’s area, with the Russian’s doing all they could to keep near enough ever player in their area. United will need to break the deadlock, which may quell the game a little, but could bring the Russian’s out of their half looking to get back into the match.
The first half ended 0-0 with United resurgent in the final minutes of the half. In the entire first half, Herrera and Pogba shared more passes than the entire Rostov team, so you can imagine how dire the match had been with the Russian side going against the play of the game to park the bus and generally try and keep themselves in the match. United were still leading with the away goal, which sounds good, but it is a precarious position to be in at this stage. United need a goal or goals, conceding one may not be that much of an issue yet with the Red Devils dominating the play.
The second half started with more of the same for United but in the 47th minute of the match, Paul Pogba stopped feeling his hamstring, then being replaced by Marouane Fellaini, which will be a midfield crisis for United against Middlesbrough on Sunday with Herrera suspended and now Pogba seemingly injured. United were dealt a moment with could have been costly in the 54th minute with Sardar Azmoun getting a shot on goal which was denied by Sergio Romero. Moments later, Rostov had another attempt, that being thwarted also. United on dangerous ground by not grabbing a goal early enough.
United countered the Rostov chances with another of their own with Ibrahimovic having a shot on goal, which has a little too much on the ball. United were banging on the door, slightly, but needed a bit more to get something out of the bag. United made their second change of the game in the 64th minute of the match with Phil Jones replacing Daley Blind, who seemed to suffer an elbow to the head moments before. United took the lead through Juan Mata in the 70th minute with the Spaniard setting the goal up on the attack, the ball then going to Mkhitaryan, who crossed to Zlatan, who then flicked the ball towards goal, with Mata burying it.
United had what they needed, but they were still trying to double their lead. Rostov were playing like they were defending a lead they didn’t have. Zlatan was unlucky not to have a goal this evening, having another shot in the dying minutes of the match. United still found themselves on the attack and pressuring the Russian side. United gave away a free kick in the dying seconds of injury time with Rostov being awarded a free-kick. The free-kick was a shot on goal with Romero pulling off a great save once again. Marcus Rashford was waiting to get on the pitch, but he wasn’t needed, meaning he’s rested for the weekend.
The quarter-final draw for the UEFA Europa League will be drawn at noon tomorrow. Can United keep this momentum up and find themselves in the Champions League through this competition.
Goals: Juan Mata 70′
Assists: Zlatan Ibrahimovic 70′
Manchester United: Romero; Valencia, Smalling, Bailly, Rojo, Blind (Jones 64′); Herrera, Pogba (Fellaini 47′); Mata, Ibrahimovic, Mkhitaryan
Substitutes Not Used: De Gea; Lingard, Carrick, Young; Rashford