Jose Mourinho has given his thoughts following Manchester United’s first leg 1-1 draw with FC Rostov in the Europa League.
Henrikh Mkhitaryan marked his return to action with a well taken goal on 35 minutes following some good work from Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Marouane Fellaini.
The home side forged an equaliser through Aleksandr Bukharov soon after half time and started to pressure Man United’s back four towards the closing stages, but Mourinho’s men managed to remain strong in what were truly unusual footballing conditions.
And Mourinho, speaking after the game, was quick to praise his men for the way they coped with the challenging conditions in Russia.
“It was a good performance with the conditions, it was impossible to play better, impossible to have the ball more or make better chances” he said.
“We played what the game demanded of us and we played well. We made one defensive mistake but we can’t consider that goal and the movement in behind the defenders as we coped with the intensity and the direct game, the result is what we could expect.
“An open result for the second leg with an advantage for us. The surface shouldn’t be in the competition, it’s done and there are no injuries but it’s more experience for the players. To see my players coping with the pitch as they fought the ball was good for me.”
It will take a while for my overall sense of humour to improve after sitting through such an ugly, scrappy encounter, but from an objective view supporters should be pleased: an away goal, no injuries, and in the driving seat for the first leg.
United had to abandon their usual customs for the trip to Russia. Mourinho knew that deploying his usual 4-3-3 system would have ended in disaster; this was always going to be a direct, disjointed affair, with Rostov bound to throw little more than long balls and muscle at the visitors.
The Portuguese, in turn, pushed Ashley Young and Daley Blind further up the pitch to act as immediate options for the likes of Paul Pogba and Ander Herrera. This gave United plenty of control and managed, on the whole, to preclude Rostov from piling balls forward at will, and supporters will expect less of an eyesore when the two sides meet next Thursday at Old Trafford.