Manchester United drew 1-1 in Russia with Henrikh Mkhitaryan scoring the opening goal of the match. The pitch was not the best, but it did not cause any injuries for United, which is a good thing. Rostov equalised in the second half, came close to getting another, but United did all they could to stop that from happening. The second leg at Old Trafford will need to see United do the business after a tough week with Chelsea in their sights on Monday night.
Jose Mourinho made seven changes to his lineup and a change of formation with five at the back, possible a test of formation for Monday night to combat Chelsea in the FA Cup? Matteo Darmian was left out of the 18-man matchday squad along with Kieran O’Hara, both of whom travelled to Russia with the squad on Tuesday afternoon. The Russian side only named six substitutes due to their squad being light on numbers. United started on the front foot, attacking well, but much like United, Rostov were well covered defensively. It could be a tough game to break down – for both teams.
United looked like they needed to perfect the formation they were playing in, but things were going well in the early stages of the match. Marouane Fellaini was on a 17 match streak since earning his last yellow card, which was a good stat for the burly Belgian. In the 21st minute of the match Henrikh Mkhitaryan was booked for a supposed elbow on an opposition player, who seemed to go down easily and make a meal out of the challenge, something they have been doing on a few occasions on the Armenian, possibly to try to get him sent off.
In the 25th Alexandr Gatskan was booked for a challenge on Zlatan Ibrahimovic and being one yellow card away from a suspension, will, therefore miss the second leg at Old Trafford in a weeks time. The Russian side will have to take their fate from this match, and the second leg without their captain. The match seemed to be a balanced on for much of the first half-hour with the two sides equally matched in terms of vying for chances. United had the most possession in the open half hour, having three shots on goal, none of them on target. Rostov has two shots on goal, one of those on target.
United took the lead in the 35th minute through Mkhitaryan with the assist coming from Ibrahimovic. United had done all they could to get the goal, prevailing at the right time with ten minutes to go before the end of the half. Rostov will have been unhappy to concede, but the match was not over yet. United do need to take lead from this match, ensure they have little to do at Old Trafford in a weeks time. At the end of the first half, there was two additional minutes to be played. United were on the attack for much of those additional minutes, pressuring their opposition. United went into the break 1-0 up, surely with more to do in the second half.
United started well in the second half, attempting to get something going in order to double their lead. Rostov seemed to be out of the match at 1-0 down, but that could well change later into the game. In the 52nd minute, United were on the counter and it was Ashley Young who fired towards goal, but his effort was off target. Rostov then went on the break moments later, scoring the equaliser through Alexander Bukharov inside the 53rd minute. That was not to plan, so United now needed something to go their way in order to head away from Russia with the victory.
A 1-1 draw may not be all that bad, which will mean United will have two more big matches ahead of them over the next week. Mourinho made his first change of the match inside the 68th minute with Anthony Martial replacing the goalscorer Henrikh Mkhitaryan, presumably allowing the Armenian to rest ahead of Monday night’s trip to Stamford Bridge. In the 73rd minute of the match Dzmitry Molosh was booked, meaning he too misses the second leg at Old Trafford. A minute or so later the home side made their second change with the apparent ‘Iranian Lionel Messi’ Sardar Azmoun replacing Bukharov.
Ander Herrera was booked in the 78th minute for a challenge, which seemed to hurt the Rostov player, the second booking for United this evening. Nothing too costly, though. United were doing all they could to thwart Rostov from taking the lead during the match, which was possible with the chances they were creating, but United were getting the better of them. Mourinho made two changes at the death with Antonio Valencia and Michael Carrick replacing Daley Blind and Ander Herrera. The match ended 1-1, with all to play for at Old Trafford. United still unbeaten inside 90 minutes in Russia. Chelsea on Monday evening in the Emirates FA Cup will be another big challenge lying in wait for United, with the second leg of this match coming three days later.
Goals: Henrikh Mkhitaryan 35′
Assists: Zlatan Ibrahimovic 35′
Manchester United: Romero; Young, Jones, Smalling, Rojo, Blind (Valencia 90+2′); Fellaini, Herrera (Carrick 90+2′), Pogba; Mkhitaryan (Martial 68′); Ibrahimovic
Substitutes Not Used: De Gea; Mata, Lingard; Rashford
Bookings: Henrikh Mkhitaryan 21′, Ander Herrera 78′
Written by Mike Wilson