EUROPA LEAGUE: ROSTOV 1 : MANCHESTER UNITED 1 RED DEVILS FORCED TO SHARE SPOILS
MANCHESTER UNITED bagged a crucial away goal in their Europa League clash with Rostov this evening.
But a stunning goal by Aleksandr Bukharov saw the Russians earn a deserved draw ahead of next week’s second-leg tie at Old Trafford.Jose Mourinho made no secret of his disdain for the Rostov pitch at his press conference the other day.And the Special One made sure his team were ready to mix it up by deploying a five-man defence along with a number of physically-big players in midfield and attack.
However, United struggled to make any passing plays happen on the field and looked absolutely relieved when Henrikh Mkhitaryan put them ahead ten minutes before half-time.
Marouane Fellaini jumped high to take down a cross in mid-air before laying it off to Zlatan Ibrahimovic.
The Swede charged into the Rostov box before pulling the ball back for Mkhitaryan, who ran on to finish with aplomb.
But United failed to improve on their morale-boosting goal and Rostov were soon back on level terms in the second half.
An exquisite ball from Timofei Kalachev was met by Bukharov, who controlled it with his chest before firing past Sergio Romero with just a single touch.
United continued to misfire as the pitch disintegrated with every passing minute, and it was Rostov who started to look the more confident side with a number of close chances.
However, neither side could find a winner on the night, meaning United control the tie with their away goal ahead of next week’s reverse fixture.
FACTS, STATS, GOALS AND LOLS
Jose Mourinho had called it right when this draw was made predicting a tough physical encounter.
Manchester United gave as good as they got in the challenges and were victims of some awful play acting as well by Rostov.
The home side had clearly targeted Henrikh Mkhitaryan and Zlatan Ibrahimovic which made it all the sweeter for the pair when they combined for United’s 35th minute goal.
Rostov captain Aleksander Gatskan’s booking for a challenge on Ibra means he will miss the second leg on totting up.
United played a changed 3-5-2 formation to combat Rostov’s same set up or it could have been a dry run for the Chelsea game on Monday.
Mourinho was right to have his concerns about the pitch. The surface was awful with crazy bounces and mud and dust flying up with each challenge.
Daley Blind had made it clear on the eve of the game, however, that they could not use this as an excuse and had to adapt which they did.
A swirling wind and freezing temperatures did not help either and left the 238 travelling fans pining for balmy Manchester.
Thankfully it appeared the pre-match fears of possible trouble from Russian hooligans did not transpire.
In fact United fans were given free red blankets by Rostov fans in a gesture of goodwill to help keep them warm.
United tired noticeably in the second period and it was cracking through ball for Rostov’s equaliser from Timofei Kalachev which Aleksandr Bukharov chested down and finished off first time.
The nastiness continued in the second period with even Mourinho involved in a verbal exchange with Rostov’s right wing back Kalachev.
Rostov: Medvedev 6, Kalachev 6, Mevlja 7, Navas 7, Granat 6 (Terentjev 6), Kudryashov 6, Erokhin 6, Gatcan 6, Noboa 6, Poloz 6, Bukharov 7 (Azmoun 5)
Subs not used: Kireev, Bayramyan, Prepelita, Goshev
Goal: Bukharov 53’
Booked: Gatcan, Bukharov, Noboa, Kalachev
Man Utd: Romero 6, Young 6, Jones 6, Smalling 6, Rojo 6, Blind 6 (Valencia 6), Fellaini 7, Herrera 6 (Carrick 6), Pogba 7, Mkhitaryan 6 (Martial 5), Ibrahimovic 7
Subs not used: De Gea, Mata, Lingard, Rashford
Goal: Mkhitaryan 35’
Booked: Mkhitaryan, Herrera
STAR MAN: Aleksandr Bukharov