“It was not a very interesting match but we played as well as we could on that pitch and for both sides the pitch was an terrible thing”. Although obviously not the optimal result, they do have a crucial away goal now, which will be advantageous towards advancing.
Manchester United started the tie on an impressive note knowing fully well that an away win would make the return leg an easy one for them at Old Trafford.
Mourinho had complained about the half-frozen pitch in Russian Federation and spoke about it again after the match. “It’s done. [There are] no injuries”.
At an Irish pub in the centre of Rostov, we did find a small number of United fans drinking beer and singing songs, but a club official told us that only 80 United fans made the trip from the UK – the smallest number he said, in a long, long time.
‘I remember when I was a kid playing some matches in Portugal, league two, amateurs. I have now a lot to think about because I was expecting something more playable. Our three central defenders had a very positive game. How did Mourinho think his players adapted to that switch in formation?
“We did very, very well except for the goal which was a little mistake but the game was always under control”.
While, the Rostov attack was blunted to a substantial effect in the first half, they began the second half in a more flowing fashion going forward.
“I did not see us conceding a goal and we did it. They had a very hard group with [Bayern Munich] and [Atletico Madrid] but they managed important results against them”. Even in the competition’s previous guise as the UEFA Cup, United never went beyond the last eight in six attempts, with unglamorous sides such as Videoton and Widzew Lodz among those to have ousted them.
The precious away goal that Mkhitaryan clipped home ensured he became the first Manchester United footballer since Rooney in 2010 to score in three successive European matches.
“I don’t know which team I will play, I don’t know if Mkhitaryan is going to play”, he added.