Manchester United will be hoping to bounce back from their 1-1 draw with Bournemouth when they take on FC Rostov in the first leg of the Europa League tie on Thursday evening.
Jose Mourinho’s side have been in great form since the turn of the new year and they sealed their first piece of silverware last month during their 3-2 victory over Southampton in the EFL Cup.
However, they missed an opportunity to put pressure on the top four by dropping two points on Saturday so United will be keen to get back to winning ways.
They will go into the clash against FC Rostov as favourites in Russia but they can expect a hostile atmosphere and it won’t be an easy game.
FC Rostov head into the tie on the back of a commanding 6-0 victory over Tom Tomsk on Friday evening and they remain unbeaten since November.
The Russians will be without their number one goalkeeper Soslan Dzhanaev because he is absent with a nerve injury but apart from that, they will have a full strength squad available.
Henrikh Mkhitaryan is unlikely to feature after he picked up a hamstring injury in the last Europa League tie against St Etienne and Bastian Schweinsteiger could also miss out.
The German is still struggling with a muscle injury but Ibrahimovic is expected to start as he faces a lengthy absence from domestic competition following his post-match ban against Bournemouth.
- FC Rostov’s last home defeat came in October when they were defeated 1-0 by Atletico Madrid in the Champions League group stages. (They went on to beat Bayern Munich 3-2 in their next home European game.)
- Dmitry Poloz has scored two goals in two Europa League appearances for FC Rostov, while Aleksandr Bukharov has grabbed both assists.
- Zlatan Ibrahimovic has netted five goals in all five of his European starts this season for Manchester United.
- Paul Pogba is the only Manchester United player to have started every Europa League tie in 2016-17.
- It will be the first time the two teams have played each other in any competition.
- United have a good record in Russia as they haven’t lost their last four away games in the country. They also won their last Champions League final in Moscow (2008.)
- It is the first time FC Rostov have reached the knock-out stages of any European competition.
Aleksandr Bukharov: The forward has been one of FC Rostov’s star players this season and he has been impressive in European competition already. He’s grabbed two assists in the last two Europa League games and his pace can cause a threat going forward. The hosts will look to break United on the counter-attack so he could be a vital player for them on Thursday evening.
Zlatan Ibrahimovic: Following the news of his lengthy domestic ban, it’s almost certain Ibrahimovic will start up front for United. He has been simply outstanding since joining in the summer and his brace against the Saints took his tally up to 26 in 39 appearances in all competitions during 2016-17. He will be the key man to unlock FC Rostov’s defence and United will certainly rely on his goal-scoring ability to give them the lead.
It could be a really tough clash for United and if there’s anyone capable of causing an upset in this competition it is FC Rostov. The Russians overcame Sparta Prague with ease to reach the knockout stages and they have been in great form in domestic competition. United have had a lot of games this year and Mourinho may be tempted to make a few changes but it could be risky. With Ibrahimovic likely to start though, United should get on the score-sheet but it may be a hard-fought victory and it could take the stuffing out of the United players.
FC Rostov 0-1 Manchester United