A dodgy pitch, a combative Rostov team, and a match peppered with fouls from start to finish, this is the summary of today’s game involving the Russian side and Manchester United for their Europa League tie. Mourinho had complained earlier about the state of the pitch, and this time he was spot on, but still, the Red Devils could have done better instead of the 1-1 draw if they had been more inspired, but the draw still gives them bragging rights should they outclass themselves for the return leg at Old Trafford, and it seems that Mourinho is happy with the outcome for the 1st leg, as clearly he has his sights set for the FA Cup tie against Chelsea on Monday, but that too will not be a match to be taken for granted, as the Blues have already humiliated the Red Devils on home soil for their Premier League encounter, and if they are not well prepared another one could follow.
The Red Devils took about 15 minutes to really get into the game, as both teams struggled to get the ball under control on a terrible surface, although the Russian side was more favored in a certain way, given they are used to play in such conditions. Both set of players were having a go at each other as the foul count mounted on, while Granat even had to leave his teammates after a collision with Mkhitaryan on the 18th minute, and the latter even picked up a yellow shortly after as he accumulated the number of fouls committed on opposition players, but nothing too dangerous as the battle to keep the ball rose. United’s backline was not providing any security as Rostov’s long-ball tactics exposed them more than once, but they managed to deal with any potential threats posed by the Russians. United somehow managed to score thou on the 35th minute, as Fellaini and Zlatan combined, and the latter managed to feed the ball to Mkhitaryan who rifled a shot into the far corner for the opener. From thereon United looked more comfortable and were able to keep possession for longer periods, although Rostov threatened twice just after conceding.
While a better second half was expected from the side in red, it was Rostov which stunned the Red Devils as Bukharov netted the equalizer on the 53rd minute with a brilliant volley following a cool chest control after Kalachev had found him in the box with a brilliant pass. Rostov upped the tempo, while United resorted to their own long-ball tactics in a desperate attempt to find the solo Zlatan upfront, but life was becoming difficult for the Red Devils all over the pitch with Rostov clearly not settling for a draw for this match. The defense was struggling to cope with the ascendance of the Rostov players, and Romero had to be alert to keep out a couple of shots which could have surprised him. United were clearly on the backfoot, and treading on a knife’s edge as the home side were clearly looking for a win, while the Red Devils were clearly relying on the draw. Finally they did manage to hold on to the draw, although Martial missed a glaring opportunity in the dying seconds, yet the draw still smells good for the Red Devils, provided they give us a more classy display for the return leg, as today’s game is surely one which must be forgotten at the earliest, and Mourinho must build something more concrete both for the FA Cup tie, and the return leg next Thursday if they really want to challenge for the trophies, as right now the battle for the top 4 in the Premier League is raging on, and United are still some way behind to catch up with the others, and if they really want to play in the CL next season, then another way is to go right till the end of the Europa League, and try win it to ease up things.