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:


Young, Jones, Smalling, Rojo, Blind;

Fellaini, Herrera, Pogba;




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

FC Rostov:


Molosh, Mevlja, Navas, Granat, Kudryashov;

Noboa, Erokhin, Gatcan;

Bukharov, Poloz


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.


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