By Harry Ogilvie
- A change of formation from Mourinho
- Mkhitaryan returns from injury and scores crucial away goal
After the drama of the Bournemouth game on Saturday, it was important for United to get a positive result in Southern Russia to take back to Old Trafford. On a pitch that could be compared to a ploughed field.
Jose Mourinho started with a completely different team in a completely different formation to what was expected.
He opted for a 3-5-2 formation with Blind and Young operating as wing-backs on either flank against a FC Rostov side who defeated Bayern Munich in the Champions League group stage earlier in the season.
However, despite the significant changes in personnel and formation. United will be travelling home with a 1-1 draw and an invaluable away goal.
Team Selection Paid Off
Mourinho’s selection of the team paid off as the team scored and avoided defeat against a tough opponent. This result gives The Red Devils a huge chance to make the last eight in the Europa League.
Overall, the game wasn’t the most fluent or exhilarating matchup Europe has ever seen but it is definitely enough to provide United with an opportunity to make the quarter final. Despite the lack of entertainment, there were still positives to take from the match.
Manchester United saw a return to action for Mkhitaryan after a hamstring injury, as well as Herrera’s return to the starting line-up after being left out against Bournemouth at the weekend.
They also successfully bagged the pivotal away goal in the first half from the Armenian magician. United managed to avoid any players getting injured, meaning we have a full squad for the Chelsea game, minus Zlatan Ibrahimović who will miss out due to his suspension.
Mourinho would argue this result was exactly what his men needed to ensure they are still capable of qualifying for the next round of the Europa League which is an alternative route into the Champion’s League.
Mkhitaryan Proves Key
The notable performances came from Mkhitaryan, Ander Herrera and birthday boy, Daley Blind. Mkhitaryan did his best to create chances and make runs on a barely playable pitch, as well as successfully providing us with the all-important opening goal.
Herrera kept United on the front foot with his constant pressing of Rostov’s midfield and backline. Blind on his 27th birthday performed well in the wing-back role stopping almost everything that came his way. In addition to his composure and forward passing when in possession.
The United goal came from an impressive piece of play from Fellaini, who played the ball to Zlatan. He then looked up and found Mkhitaryan in the middle who just had to slot the ball home.
It was a highly satisfying goal with some splendid build-up play from Fellaini and Ibrahimović who put it on a plate for Mkhitaryan.
The Rostov goal however was ridiculous, Jones left his man who then controlled the ball with a Fellaini-esque chest down and sent Romero the wrong way with a neat volley.
United and Jones specifically made it too easy for Rostov to get in behind with just a lob over the top. Thankfully, apart from that one defensive slip-up United were relatively solid and tried to create chances on a poorly maintained field.
The Manager’s View
Mourinho was pleased with the result and the performance of the team despite the playing conditions.
He was quoted saying “It was a very good performance in relation to the pitch. Impossible to play any better.” The Portuguese also commented on the away goal describing it as “positive” and the result “better than 0-0”. He firmly believes “Old Trafford will push us”. It is clear the manager is more than happy with the result and is confident United will win through to the quarter-finals.
To conclude, it was an adequate result for United and even more admirable when you look at the change of formation and seemingly questionable line-up.
It would appear Mourinho once again proved those who doubted him wrong as he managed to get the result he wanted whilst resting players for our FA Cup tie with his former employers, Chelsea.
The team looked comfortable in a new formation and did just enough to ensure United’s chances of progressing.
Follow me, Harry Ogilvie, on Twitter @UnitedScotsman for more news, views and opinions on everything United related.