Preview: Mourinho focused on keeping Champions League dream alive

Manchester United v FC Rostov

Old Trafford, Manchester

UEFA Europa League 2016/17

Thursday 16th March 2017; KO 20:05 GMT

Live on BT Sport

Manchester United will now be faced with getting their season back on track with the visit of FC Rostov to Old Trafford in the UEFA Europa League on Thursday evening. On Monday evening, United were eliminated from the Emirates FA Cup after a 1-0 defeat at the hands of Chelsea, a match which saw the sending off of Ander Herrera after receiving two yellow cards, meaning he will be suspended for the next domestic fixture, the trip to Middlesbrough on Sunday in the Premier League. United played well from the start of the match and actually looked like they were grinding down Chelsea, but the red card changed the match. This is something United will need to be on top of on Thursday night at the Theatre of Dreams, as anything less than a victory will mean United’s season will in effect be over.

The UEFA Champions League is a competition United need to be participating in next season; whether they qualify through their league position, or by winning the Europa League. Those are the two chances United have right now and both chances really need to be taken or playing Europa League football next season may be the limit for Jose Mourinho’s side. March has been a tough month for United were before the international break they will have played five matches in 15 days, which may not sound all that busy, but with two to three days between matches, it will be tough on the players, especially with injuries and suspensions. In April it will only get worse for United, who have six Premier League matches already scheduled, two still to rearrange and if they get through Rostov, two more Europa League matches will be playable.

Jose Mourinho has become a popular Manchester United manager this season, winning a major trophy in his first season, which has never been done before. Many did not want him as the manager but have not adopted him in the role he was not a popular fit for. The funny thing is that those so-called supporters who were moaning about Louis van Gaal and wanting Mourinho to become the manager at Christmas in 2015, are now moaning on social media for the guy to be sacked as United’s fall from grace in the Emirates FA Cup is down to him, apparently. I just do not understand why this club attracts so many plastic supporters, ones whose reactions depend on whether United win or lose, or even draw, which with the reactions would suggest United had lost. If you cannot support Manchester United when they lose, don’t support them when they win. Too many plastics does not make a great fan base. Mourinho spoke about his pride for his players and the supporters after the 1-0 defeat to Chelsea on Monday evening, saying:

“I want to say that I’m really proud of my players, I’m really proud of Manchester United fans. We have a very important match on Thursday and I want to rest a little bit to try to prepare the team as best we can for the Thursday match and that’s the most important thing.”

Match Officials:

The match officials for the match on Thursday night are all from Lithuania. The referee is Gediminas Mažeika, the assistant referees are Vytautas Šimkus and Vytenis Kazlauskas. The additional assistant referees have been named as Donatas Rumšas and Robertas Valikonis and the fourth official is Dovydas Sužiedėlis. The UEFA Delegate for the match is Germany’s Ronald Zimmermann and the referee’s observer is Konrad Plautz of Austria.


Both Jose Mourinho and  Ivan Daniliants have something to look at during the match with Ander Herrera, Eric Bailly, Aleksandr Bukharov and Vladimir Granat all walking a tightrope being one booking away from a one-match suspension. Bailly was booked then sent off against Saint-Etienne last month, Herrera was sent off against Chelsea on Monday evening, so both need to quell their tempers as this match, should they both play, will be hot-headed with both teams wanting the prize which is a place in the UEFA Europa League quarter-final, with United looking to win the only European trophy they have not won, which will also put them into the UEFA Champions League, albeit through the back door with today marking 100 days since they took the sixth place in the Premier League this season.

Form: Manchester United and Rostov have it all to lose on Thursday night at Old Trafford

Manchester United LDDWW: Manchester United have seen their form slip over the past few weeks; seeing their winning run turn into wins, draws and a defeat. That is something Jose Mourinho and his squad will need to combat. There are players who have been rested over the last few matches, despite playing a few minutes, which could be good ahead of this week which will see United pay two more times before a two-week international break with will take us into April. United have a last chance to get some momentum going. Winning the Premier League has been off the table for months now, but that does not mean that United cannot fight their way into the top four.

Rostov DDWDW: Rostov has so far had a positive season in the Russian Premier League, playing two matches after the three-month winter break, winning one and drawing the other, sitting in eighth place in the league, 15 points adrift of league leaders Spartak Moscow. Improvement will be needed in order to qualify for a European place next season. In Europe though, Rostov have been playing well, falling out of the Champions League, but doing all they needed to do in the knockout stages of the Europa League, which sees them in with a good chance of reaching the quarter-finals, if United do not pull everything out of the bag and send them packing on Thursday evening.

Who are the Manchester United and Rostov Top Scorers this season?

Manchester United: 26 – Zlatan Ibrahimović, 9 – Juan Mata, 7 – Anthony Martial, Henrikh Mkhitaryan, Paul Pogba, Marcus Rashford, 5 – Wayne Rooney, 4 – Jesse Lingard, 2 – Michael Carrick, Marouane Fellaini, Chris Smalling, 1 – Daley Blind, Own Goal, Ander Herrera, Marcos Rojo, Bastian Schweinsteiger

Rostov: 11 – Dmitry Poloz, 9 – Sardar Azmoun, 6 – Christian Noboa, 5 – Aleksandr Yerokhin, 4 – Aleksandr Bukharov, 2 – Alexandru Gațcan, 1 – Marko Dević, Saeid Ezatolahi, Own Goal, Miha Mevlja, César Navas, Ivan Novoseltsev, Andrei Prepeliță

Team News:

Zlatan Ibrahimovic will be eligible to play for Manchester United again on Thursday evening after sitting out of the 1-0 defeat to Chelsea in the Emirates FA Cup, also missing the trip to Middlesbrough on Sunday and the visit of West Bromwich Albion on the 1st April. Wayne Rooney and Anthony Martial who both missed to trip to Chelsea due to injury and illness respectively, could be back in the squad to push United into the quarter-finals of the UEFA Europa League this season. Luke Shaw could well be included in the squad after missing out in the last two matches, having played against Bournemouth at Old Trafford just over a week ago.

UEFA Europa League Run: How have Manchester United and Rostov fared in the Europa League this season?

Manchester United: Jose Mourinho’s side qualified for the UEFA Europa League group stages this season, drawing Fenerbache, Feyenoord and Zorya Luhansk. United won four matches in the group; Zorya home (1-0) and away (2-0), Fenerbache home (4-1) and Feyenoord home (4-0). United lost both away matches to Feyenoord and Fenerbache, qualifying for the knockout stages with a second place finish in the group, behind Fenerbahce. In the round of 32 United were drawn against Saint-Etienne, beating them 3-0 at home and 1-0 away, 4-0 on aggregate. In Russia last week, they drew 1-1 with Rostov, meaning anything less than a win at Old Trafford could see their participation in the Europa League and one of their two chances to qualify for the Champions League over.

Rostov: The Russian side qualified for the UEFA Champions League, but only after two qualification rounds beating Anderlecht 4-2 on aggregate, then Ajax 5-2 on aggregate. In the group stages, Rostov drew Bayern Munich, Atletico Madrid, and PSV Eindhoven. Atletico beat Rostov twice, Bayern won once, being beaten in the second match and PSV and Rostov drew, which resulted in the Russian side falling into the Europa League in the round of 32 stage. Rostov beat Sparta Prague 4-0 in the first leg, then drew 1-1 in the second, beating the Czech side 5-1 on aggregate. Against United, Rostov drew 1-1 in Russia, with all to play for in Manchester.

Previous Meetings:

Manchester United and FC Rostov faced each other for the first time in Russia last Thursday. United scored first through Henrikh Mkhitaryan and Rostov found an equaliser early in the second half through Aleksandr Bukharov. United had a tough encounter with the home side doing all they could to get the better of their visitors, and that will probably not change at Old Trafford. United have only been beaten by a Russian side once in 90 minutes with Zenit St Petersburg beating them 1-0 in the UEFA Super Cup back in 2008. United were also beaten on penalties in 1992 by Torpedo Moscow, but more recently, United have drawn in Russia to CSKA Moscow, winning at Old Trafford, which is the same thing United need to adopt for on Thursday evening.

Starting XI Prediction: Who is going to start against Rostov?

Predicted Score:

Manchester United 3-0 FC Rostov

Written by Mike Wilson

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