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Mata on the possibility of winning the Europa League: “We know it is a good chance”

Manchester United beat FC Rostov in the second leg of the round of 16 1-0 at Old Trafford in the UEFA Europa League, winning 2-1 on aggregate. United now find themselves in the quarter-final stages of the competition for the first time, getting at least a round further than last season when they were beaten at this stage by finalists Liverpool. Jose Mourinho’s side has the lion’s share of possession and chances but found it hard to break down the Russian side, who had every man utilised in their own half for much of the game. United have many chances to find a goal, which would put them in the driving seat for the match but that did not come until the 70th minute with Juan Mata connection to a Zlatan Ibrahimovic backheel to bury the ball into the back of the net. United could have been back to square one more than once with Sergio Romero making some world-class saves to defy Rostov, making one at the death after Phil Jones gave away a free-kick deep in injury time. United will find out who they will face in the quarter-final in tomorrow’s draw, which will add two more matches to the already busy April fixture list.

Former Manchester United player and MUTV pundit Paddy Crerand spoke after the 1-0, 2-1 aggregate victory over Rostov praising Sergio Romero and suggesting that Paul Pogba could be out for a fortnight, meaning he could be back after the international break. On Romero, Crerand said:

“The goalkeeper was fantastic, he played exceptionally well over there and he has been tremendous whenever he has played. Rostov made it tough for United. We didn’t know much about them and they must be pleased with how they played over the two legs. But United clearly deserved to go through.”

Speaking about Pogba, the European Cup winner from 1968 said:

“The injury that Pogba has, it looks like he could be out for a few weeks. The problem for United is the injuries that we have got and now we have a difficult game against Middlesbrough coming up on Sunday, but at least we got the job done tonight.”

The goalscorer and match winner Juan Mata spoke to BT Sport about the team doing their job and ensuring Manchester United were into the quarter-final draw on Friday, saying:

“It was a matter of finishing our chances again,” Mata said on BT Sport. “For the first half, for some moments we played great football, we created some nice chances but we couldn’t finish. We need to score. If not it is difficult to get through. It is important that we kept our goal, we have done our job and we are happy to win.”

Mata also stated that United pushed Rostov until the bitter end of the match, which could have resulted in extra time being played if Sergio Romero did not thwart the shot from the free-kick given away by Phil Jones. Mata said:

“They are a team that push until the end and they played with a difficult system to play against, but I think we adapted well to their football and we played at Old Trafford, so we have to push from the beginning and that’s what we did.”

The captain for the evening Chris Smalling praise the Argentinian keeper, who has been an excellent stand in for David De Gea throughout the cup competitions this season, saying:

“We know we have got two top quality goalkeepers, whoever is selected is stepping up and we have got a really good squad.”

Chris Smalling was also asked about the fitness of both Paul Pogba and Daley Blind who both amassed injuries against the Russian side. The England defender said:

“We hope that their injuries are not too serious. We have got a couple of days to recover now and then go again on Sunday.”

Juan Mata also spoke to BT Sport about Manchester United’s chances of lifting the UEFA Europa League trophy at the end of the season, the only major European trophy which United have not yet lifted in their entire history. The Spaniard replied by saying:

“That’s our aim, we always want to win every tournament that we play in. We know it is a good chance, obviously if you win, to play Champions League next season and we are going to try until the end. There are still some very good games left in the Europa League, the level is very good, so it is going to be difficult but we would like to play Champions League next season and this is one way to do it.”

Sergio Romero was named the Man of the Match:

Zlatan Ibrahimovic on the importance being that Manchester United made it into the UEFA Europa League quarter-finals:

Manchester United manager Jose Mourinho spoke to the media after his side’s 2-1 aggregate victory over FC Rostov at Old Trafford on Thursday night and spoke about many factors of the match. Mourinho spoke about the following;

The analysis of the victory which sees United in the draw for the quarter-finals of the UEFA Europa League this season:

“In the first half we were fresh, we were not dead, and we were really dominant, and we created chances, and they did not cross the midfield line, and everything looked like we were going to score a couple of goals to kill it. But they played clearly to let the game go until the period where we would be logically in some trouble from a physical point of view. We left the game open, they left the game open too, and in the last part we had problems, we had injuries, we had to make changes.”

Mourinho confirmed that Paul Pogba has a hamstring injury and Daley Blind, who was also substituted with an injury needs time for his complaint to be assessed:

“Paul has an issue, Daley I do not know, I have to see what happened. Fatigue has a price but I will remember forever, when I spoke with the UEFA delegate in Rostov, he told me that if any of our players gets an injury then the insurance pays so the pitch is not a problem. Probably the people that decide the match is for us on the Monday, and then the Sunday at 12 o’clock, they are probably people who think the same: if they are injured, they are insured and it is no problem.”

More on Paul Pogba:

“It is a hamstring. I don’t know for sure but no Middlesbrough and national team.”

Mourinho on Marcos Rojo eating a banana on the pitch, which seems to raise some questions as if many had never seen a banana before:

“I don’t know if you are tired any time in your life. I was tired may times and I know what are the limits of the body and when the body needs anything… Anything! The player asked for a banana [for energy] and it is not to laugh at all, it is to respect the players and their limits. They gave absolutely everything.”

Mourinho on Manchester United being the last team from Manchester in Europa this season, with Leicester City the only other team from England in a competition:

“I am very disappointed. I am not making fun of it, I am speaking really and feeling it. It is bad for us for many reasons. It is bad for us because the five teams that are in front of us in the Premier League, none of them have international football. They will be playing one match per week, like some of them have been doing since the beginning of the season. They don’t know what fatigue is, they don’t know what accumulation is, they don’t know what it is to go home tonight and don’t speak because of fatigue. Tomorrow is another day for us and we will fight until the limit. That is what we have to do.”

Manchester United will find out who their opposition in the quarter-final stages of the UEFA Europa League on Friday afternoon. Besiktas, Celta Vigo, Genk, Lyon, Schalke, Ajax, and Anderlecht are all through to the quarter-final stages.

Report: Juan Mata the goalscoring hero as United progress

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

Team News: Ibrahimovic, Mkhitaryan and Mata start; five at the back?

Manchester United have the task of beating FC Rostov at Old Trafford in the second leg round of 16 clash in the UEFA Europa League this evening. On Monday evening, United were beaten 1-0 by Chelsea ending their hopes of retaining the Emirates FA Cup this season, also ending the hopes of a #BanterTreble being won this season. United will now have to concentrate on the Premier League and the Europa League in order to earn a place in next season’s UEFA Champions League, a must for the club over any other accolade this season. Jose Mourinho will have a near full-strength squad with Bastian Schweinsteiger, Wayne Rooney, and Anthony Martial ruled out of the match if you believe the Portuguese manager who said the same about Marcus Rashford ahead of the Chelsea match. Zlatan Ibrahimovic is eligible to play but will remain suspended for the trip Middlesbrough on Sunday and the visit of West Bromwich Albion on the 1st April after the international break, as will Ander Herrera who was red carded against Chelsea on Monday.

Manchester United:

Romero;

Valencia, Smalling, Bailly, Rojo, Blind;

Herrera, Pogba;

Mata, Ibrahimovic, Mkhitaryan

Substitutes:

De Gea; Jones; Lingard, Carrick, Young, Fellaini; Rashford

Rostov:

Medvedev;

Bayramyan, Mevlja, Navas, Kudryashov, Terentjev;

Noboa, Prepelita, Erokhin;

Azmoun, Poloz

Substitutes:

Kireev, Bukharov, Devic, Goshev

Last week United and Rostov drew 1-1 with Henrikh Mkhitaryan scoring the opening goal of the match. An early second half equaliser put the home side back in the clash with all to play for at Old Trafford. United have only ever been beaten once by a Russian side inside 90 minutes; the UEFA Super Cup against Zenit St Petersburg back in 2008. United were beaten on penalties by Torpedo Moscow in 1992, but more recently, United have beaten Russian opposition at home, drawing in Russia, so United have that record to play for at the Theatre of Dreams this evening. Come on UNITED!

Key Battles: Bailly, Pogba and Ibrahimovic to push them through against Rostov?

Manchester United earned a 1-1 draw with FC Rostov just under a week ago in the UEFA Europa League round of 16 first leg clash in Russia. Henrikh Mkhitaryan scored the opening goal of the match towards the end of the first half, with Aleksandr Bukharov scoring the equaliser eight minutes into the second half. United tested a five at the back formation, to counter a similar formation played by the Russian side, which was also a real-time test to combat Chelsea as United played a similar formation at Stamford Bridge on Monday evening in their 1-0 defeat which saw the holders exit the Emirates FA Cup. United now needed to do the business at the Theatre of Dreams to earn a place in the quarter-final stage of the competition in Friday’s draw.

What are the Key Battles going to be against Rostov at Old Trafford?

Eric Bailly v Sardar Azmoun

The Ivorian defender has not played for United since the EFL Cup final victory over Southampton at Wembley last month and previous to that, played in the clash with Saint-Etienne at Old Trafford, seeing himself sent off and missing the next match, which United were in the driving seat for anyway being 3-0 up from the home leg. Bailly has been named on the bench recently, just never been given the chance to play, despite United utilising three central defenders in their last two matches. I would expect Bailly to be one of the defenders that need to stop Rostov from getting that elusive away goal, which would only add pressure to United. Henrikh Mkhitaryan scored in Russia, putting United in the driving seat at this moment in time, despite a 1-1 draw earned from the match. With Aleksandr Bukharov suspended for this match, Sardar Azmoun, the second highest goalscorer in the Rostov side this season, could well play a part from the start of the match. When he was introduced in the 74th minute a week ago, he seemed to do the business against United and will probably more likely to use that as inspiration to get the better of United and see themselves into the last eight of the Europa League this season, something United also have more pressure to achieve. Bailly, when he has played has been decent in the back four, bur partner wise, if Jose Mourinho played four at the back, Marcos Rojo would be the best option based on his current form.

Paul Pogba v Alexandru Gațcan

Paul Pogba is a player who does need to do more this season, but also supporters need to lower their estimations as he’s not going to emerge as a player like Cristiano Ronaldo or Lionel Messi by scoring spectacular goals match after match. Pogba is a midfielder, the fee spent on him does not change that. Still, improvement is needed to establish a place in the side for years to come. Against Chelsea, Pogba seemed like a shadow of a player with such tools at his disposal. He does need to stand up against Rostov to help push United into the quarter-final of the Europa League as the chances for a Champions League place are starting to run out this season, something United need to succeed at, or face pay cuts, sponsorship cuts and another media barrage of abuse, discontent and probably protests. You know what the fan base is like, some are a right state who get reactionary about the slightest of things, then moan that you are the one in the wrong for not reacting the same. No such thing as a ‘Top Red’ I am afraid. Alexandru Gațcan was lively against United, but was booked in the match, so faces a tightrope walk of his own to avoid a booking, or cost his side in the next match, whether that is this season, or whenever they qualify for a UEFA club competition again.

Zlatan Ibrahimovic v Miha Mevlja

The veteran Swedish striker missed the defeat to Chelsea due to suspension but will be eligible to play in the Europa League against the Russian side. United did miss him on Monday evening, but with Marcus Rashford, a pacier forward, running the line it made United look more fluid, or would have if there was adequate attacking and creative players on the pitch with United playing a mainly defensive style of play against the park the bus specialists at Stamford Bridge. Zlatan has the ability to score a goal or two but also has the ability to miss sitters, which goes against him slightly. 26 goals scored this season seems to suggest he will be installed as the lead striker again, which would be needed with his next match not coming until the 4th April with him still being suspended for two more domestic matches and an international break coming up. Slovenian defender Miha Mevlja could have his work cut out for him, should he play against United at Old Trafford. I am sure Zlatan and his United teammates will be looking to score more than one goal, taking the pressure off at the Theatre of Dreams and earning a quarter-final place in the Europa League, aiming to win the competition in Sweden in May.

Written by Mike Wilson

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.

Discipline:

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

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.

Report: Mkhitaryan opens the scoring in the 1-1 draw with Rostov

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

Team News: Five at the back for Mourinho against Rostov!

Manchester United face FC Rostov in the round of 16 first leg clash of the UEFA Europa League. At the weekend, United drew 1-1 with Bournemouth in the Premier League, whereas Rostov beat Tom Tomsk 6-0 in the Russian Premier League. United need to sort out their way to the last eight in the competition, gaining the advantage of the Russian side away from home, doing the business in a weeks time at the Theatre of Dreams. United will be missing Luke Shaw and Wayne Rooney, presumably being rested for Monday’s Emirates FA Cup clash with Chelsea at Stamford Bridge, the scene of their last defeat in the Premier League, losing 4-0 back at the tail end of October.

Manchester United:

Romero;

Young, Jones, Smalling, Rojo, Blind;

Fellaini, Herrera, Pogba;

Mkhitaryan;

Ibrahimovic

Substitutes:

De Gea; Valencia; Mata, Martial, Lingard, Carrick; Rashford

FC Rostov:

Medvedev;

Molosh, Mevlja, Navas, Granat, Kudryashov;

Noboa, Erokhin, Gatcan;

Bukharov, Poloz

Substitutes:

Terentjev, Kireev, Bayramyan, Azmoun, Prepelita,

Both United and Rostov have not raced each other before, but against Russia opposition, United have fared well. Last season they were pitted against CSKA Moscow in the group stages of the UEFA Champions League, winning at Old Trafford and drawing away from home. In fact, a Russian team have only beaten United once inside 90 minutes – Zenit St. Petersburg in the UEFA Super Cup back in 2008, after United beat Chelsea to lift te Champions League trophy for the third time in their history. Torpedo Moscow beat United on penalties back in 1992, so keeping that record alive this evening with be in Jose Mourinho’s plans, even with the state of the pitch.have only beaten United once inside 90 minutes – Zenit St. Petersburg in the UEFA Super Cup back in 2008, after United beat Chelsea to lift te Champions League trophy for the third time in their history. Torpedo Moscow beat United on penalties back in 1992, so keeping that record alive this evening with be in Jose Mourinho’s plans, even with the state of the pitch.

Preview: Poor pitch standing in the way of a Manchester United victory in Russia?

FC Rostov v Manchester United

UEFA Europa League 2016/17

Stadion Olimp-2, Rostov-on-Don, Russia

Thursday 9th March 2017; KO 18:00 GMT

Live on BT Sport

Manchester United go back to the drawing board on Thursday evening and will have to beat an in-form Russian side to ensure they have a good chance of remaining in the UEFA Europa League this season. United participated in the Europa League last season, playing Liverpool at the same stage a year ago, being knocked out and Liverpool heading to the final and losing. FC Rostov beat Tom Tomsk in the Russia Premier League 6-0 at the weekend, which has earned them some praise ahead of the visit of Manchester United, which could well be one of the biggest matches they have played at home. United only managed a 1-1 draw against Bournemouth in their last match, an ill-tempered match which saw Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Tyrone Mings facing retrospective action and being suspended for three and five matches respectively. Ibrahimovic is eligible to play in the Europa League, though missing the matches against Chelsea, Middlesbrough and West Bromwich Albion.

Rostov started the season in the UEFA Champions League, being drawn in a group which consisted Bayern Munich, Atletico Madrid, and PSV Eindhoven. The Russian side were beaten twice by Atletico, won and lost against Bayern and drew twice with PSV. To get into the Champions League proper, Rostov had to beat both Anderlecht and Ajax in the qualification stages. The victory over Bayern will probably inspire the Russian’s to get a good result at home against United, who will be seen as just as big a task, despite Mourinho’s side not yet firing on all cylinders. United have been much better this season than they have in the last three, already matching the trophy won by Louis van Gaal, with two still to play for this season, should result go in the Devils’ favour. A win in Russia may not be a great feat by all accounts, but with the Europa League the only likely outcome for United to play in the Champions League next season, with United league position still being outside the qualification ranks, putting all your money on winning the Europa League will be the biggest gamble this season.

The state of the pitch will be something that is bound to be mentioned between now and kick off on Thursday evening. Jose Mourinho has had his say on the state of it during his press conference on Wednesday and UEFA have stated the match will still be played. Mourinho was told that his players are insured, so they are covered for any injuries that may be sustained. Hopefully, it is not as bad as that as the matches United have in the coming weeks will need the best players to ensure the results are the ones United want. Injuries at this stage of the season will be costly, aside of the fact that Zlatan Ibrahimovic is banned for the next three domestic matches away to Chelsea (Emirates FA Cup), Middlesbrough (Premier League) and at home to West Bromwich Albion (Premier League). The visit of Everton to the Theatre of Dreams will be the next domestic match the Swede will play for his club.

Match Officials:

The referee for this match will be Felix Zwayer. His assistants are Thorsten Schiffner and Marco Achmüller. The fourth official is Jan Seidel and the additional assistant referees are Marco Fritz and Patrick Ittrich. All of the officials for the match are from Germany.

Form:

Manchester United – WWWWD: Jose Mourinho’s side has not been doing too badly in all competitions this season. Their last defeat in the Premier League was against Chelsea back in October. United have lost to Hull City in recent months in the EFL Cup semi-final second leg, but they had already done enough to get into the final, in which the beat Southampton at Wembley to lift the cup. In the Europa League this season, aside from the group stage, United are yet to be defeated, which is a good sign at this stage of the competition, but it could still be on the cards for Mourinho’s side.

FC Rostov – DDWDW: The Russian side have been involved in a winter break; last playing a Russian Premier League match in early December – aside from the 6-0 thrashing of Tom Tomsk at the weekend, the first match back after the break. Rostov have, though, been playing in the UEFA Europa League; one match in December and two in February, which has given them a better fitness rate, especially ahead of their Russian opposition at the weekend. United could find themselves an easy match on Thursday evening, or it could well be a polar opposite. In Russia though, United do have some good form. Rostov sits fifth in the Premier League in Russia and are unbeaten at home this season.

Team News:

Eric Bailly is suspended for this match after earning a yellow card against Saint-Etienne – he got another a  few minutes later and was sent off, meaning he is still one yellow card away from another suspension, should he play at Old Trafford next week. Bastian Schweinsteiger was out of the Bournemouth match with a small injury, seemingly keeping him out of this match. Wayne Rooney and Luke Shaw have not travelled to Russia either, with the captain presumably being rested to face Chelsea at Stamford Bridge on Monday evening, and Shaw possible carrying an injury from the Bournemouth match and Mourinho not wanting to risk him. Henrikh Mkhitaryan has travelled to Russia, so could play a part in this match, on a dodgy pitch. Rostov will be without goalkeeper Soslan Dzhanaev through injury, but aside of that, they are at full strength, something United may well be at too, for the European matches at least.

Previous Meetings:

Manchester United and FC Rostov have never met in any competition before, but against Russian teams, United do have a history of playing the likes of CSKA Moscow, Torpedo Moscow, and Zenit St. Petersburg. Last season was United’s last trip to Russia, playing CSKA Moscow in the group stages of the UEFA Champions League, drawing 1-1 in Russia and winning 1-0 at Old Trafford. In 1992 United lost to Torpedo Moscow, on penalties. In 90 minutes, Zenit were the only Russian side to beat United in the UEFA Super Cup back in 2008.

Starting XI Prediction:

Score Prediction:

FC Rostov 0-2 Manchester United

Written by Mike Wilson

copyright: JW