Mkhitaryan Just Came Back From Injury To Impress: Rostov 1 United 1

Europa League Round of 16 first leg | Olimp-2 Stadium | Attendance: 14,223 | Scorers: Bukharov 53mins; Mkhitaryan 35mins

Manchester United were denied victory in the Europa League Round of 16 first leg on Thursday March 9, 2017 against FC Rostov – but will lay claim to gaining a slender advantage after Henrikh Mkhitaryan scored an important away goal in Russia.

Mkhitaryan 2

The Armenian maestro, Henrikh Mkhitaryan, just came back from injury to impresses the club, Jose Mourinho, United fans and yours truly, in Russia. Henrikh Mkhitaryan’s close-range finish followed with a close-range goal, made possible by the excellent work of Zlatan Ibrahimovic.

FC Rostov held Manchester United to a draw in the first leg of their Europa League last-16 tie in Russia, but United grabbed a valuable away goal.

Mkhitaryan put United in front with a close-range finish following some good build-up play by the Swedish soccer guru, Zlatan Ibrahimovic.

HALF-TIME STATS

Possession: Rostov 41% United 59%

Shots at goal: Rostov 4 United 4

Shots on target: Rostov 3 United 1

Corners: Rostov 1 United 2

Rostov equalised in the second-half through forward Aleksandr Bukharov, who latched on to Timofei Kalachev’s pass, to ensure a goal for Rostov. The gist is that Rostov finally came alive as they scored from their first real opportunity, with Bukharov latching onto a nicely-weighted ball over the top from Timofei Kalachev to control and blast past United’s Argentine goalie, Sergio Romero.

FULL-TIME STATS

Possession: Rostov 49% United 51%

Shots at goal: Rostov 9 United 9

Shots on target: Rostov 5 United 2

Corners: Rostov 2 United 4

The Teams

Manchester United: Romero, Young, Jones, Smalling, Rojo, Blind (Valencia 90), Pogba, Fellaini, Herrera (Carrick 90), Mkhitaryan (Martial 67), Ibrahimovic. Subs not used: De Gea, Lingard, Mata, Rashford.

Booked: Mkhitaryan, Herrera

FC Rostov: Medvedev, Kalachev, Mevlja, Navas, Granat (Terentyev 18), Kudryashov, Noboa, Erokhin, Gatskan, Bukharov (Azmoun 74), Poloz. Subs not used: Goshev, Kireev, Bayramyan, Prepelita.

FC Rostov is a Russian professional football club based in Rostov-on-Don, Rostov Oblast. The club are currently members of the Russian Premier League and play at the Olimp-2 stadium.

Booked: Gatskan, Bukharov, Noboa, Kalachev

Jose Mourinho On Draw With FC Rostov: manutd.com

‘Impossible to play better’ 

“It was a very good performance in relation to the conditions. It was impossible to play better, impossible to play a passing game. We played what the game demanded and we played well. We made one defensive mistake. We have an open result for the second leg with a little advantage for us. There are no injuries. I think we had a positive result. We know we need to win or to have a 0-0 draw so the game is open, the tie is open. But, in these circumstances, I think it was a good result.”

Change in formation

“The game plan was that we know they don’t try to play – they tried to put the ball always to the front, into their strikers. That’s the way they play on this pitch and so the best thing to do was to play three at the back. Our three central defenders had a very positive game. The midfield fought for the second goal and tried to give something in attack.”

On Rostov fans

“I think everything was magnificent. People have been nice to us since we landed, in the game they supported their team like it should be done. Our supporters behaved properly and, on the pitch, it was an example – the players fought really hard for every ball but in a positive way. Hopefully the Rostov fans who go to Old Trafford next week have great conditions now to be welcomed and for everything to be an example.”

Away goal valuable?

“An away goal is always positive; it’s better 1-1 than 0-0, obviously. But the game is open, the result is open and this Rostov team has experience of playing big matches, big opponents, big stadiums. I don’t think it’s a problem for them to go to Old Trafford and play us. They play Sunday against Terek Grozny, we play Monday against Chelsea – they know they have more time. It’s more difficult but we are one step from the quarter-finals. Old Trafford will push us and hopefully we’ll get to the quarter-finals.”

Keeping doors open

“We want to keep two doors open. We have to keep getting points in the Premier League to keep our chances open and if we get through the knockout round here, we’re in the quarter-finals and feel the door is open. So we have to try. We have a trophy in our pocket, which is a good feeling for everyone. Now we have the Premier League for the fight for the top four and we have the Europa League fight for Rostov.”

Mourinho was unhappy with the state of the pitch at Rostov's Olymp-2 Stadium

Photo: Boss Jose Mourinho was unhappy with the state of the pitch at Rostov’s Olymp-2 Stadium in Russia | What a stadium!

Manchester United faced a difficult 3,750-mile round trip for the crucial game in south Russia – and the United players were cheered on by 238 traveling supporters, who each had their visas paid for by the club and were given blankets on entering the ground. What a club!!!

Henrikh Mkhitaryan Talks:

Manchester United star Henrikh Mkhitaryan paid tribute to the Armenian supporters who backed him in the Rostov v. United match and said that United will keep fighting to win every game – including the Emirates FA Cup tie at Chelsea.

Mkhitaryan talks to MUTV on his return from injury:

“I am happy to be back and I’m happy to score today,” he told MUTV. “I am thankful [to the Armenian fans] that they came to support me and maybe I did a good present for them, scoring a goal, so they enjoyed watching our game. I think it’s good that we scored an away goal and we have good chances for the second game.”

Mkhitaryan scored his third goal in the Europa League

Photo: Mkhitaryan fires away at close range as FC Rostov’s goalie dives in vain | The Armenian scored his third goal in the Europa League this season for Manchester United

It will be recalled that Mkhitaryan scored his goal with supreme confidence and, given his goal-scoring form, it’s amazing to think that he made such a slow start to life at Old Trafford. He will surely be key for United in the next two Premier League matches as well as the FA Cup quarter-final against Chelsea, which unfortunately, Ibrahimovic is suspended from.

When Henrikh Mkhitaryan explained the difference between playing for Manchester United and Borussia Dortmund, he remarked that appearing at Old Trafford “means being part of a great story.”

I agree with him and believe me, this Armenian is my man!

Up Man U!

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