Juan Mata has been looking ahead to Manchester United’s second leg clash with FC Rostov in the Europa League last 16 this Saturday, emphasising the influence that will come from playing at home.
Henrikh Mkhitaryan’s first half strike handed Jose Mourinho’s men a vital away goal in Russia but the home side kept the tie alive with a well taken goal from Aleksandr Bukharov soon after half time.
Talk before the game was hallmarked by the state of the pitch, with Mourinho even calling on UEFA to cancel the game altogether.
Mata, writing in his weekly blog, was notably focused on ensuring a quarter final place on Thursday.
“We come from a 1-1 draw in Rostov and I think it’s not a bad result, given all the circumstances around the game: a long trip, a tough rival and the pitch conditions,” he said.
“Our goal on Thursday will be to get a ticket to the next round, this time with the support and strength that we always get from Old Trafford.
“Being in the quarter-finals of the Europa League would be a good signal that we are doing well, but, again, first we need a good performance against Rostov, before going back to the Premier League.”
Rostov entered their clash with United with one concrete plan: to stifle everything they did.
This tactic manifested itself in all forms: that pitch, tactical fouling, long balls. They wanted to make life hell for United and, to their credit, they did just that. They certainly made my life hell for 90 minutes by producing one of the more onerous spectacles in recent history.
At Old Trafford, however, the completion will be different: the bobbly, icy turf will be replaced by a pristine, wet surface conducive to moving the ball around as much as possible. And United fans will, no doubt, hope that this makes a vital difference.