(FORM GUIDE: WWWDDL)
A tired display against Chelsea in their defeat in the quarter finals of the FA cup indicates one major problem that Jose Mourinho still has to overcome if he is too achieve one of two goals left for his side this season. If he is to advance through to the next stage of the Europa league, his side will need to find some energy somewhere.
The side, despite going down to ten men early following Ander Herrera's dismisal stayed competitive throughout, although commendable, many of the players that covered for The Spanish midfielder's absence will more than likely feature in the return leg having put in a shift that will have had Mourinho's inner turmoil boiling to full temperature.
The fixture against a highly competitive FC Rostov will again cause The Portuguese manager some headaches, not only is the tie not over yet, his side travel to relegation threatened Middlesbrough on Sunday in which could be a potential banana skin in his quest to what must have been the board's sole aim, to qualify for the Champions League, causing him to tinker as much as he dares with his squad.
Zlatan Ibrohimovic's absence in the defeat to Chelsea because of suspension following his retributal elbow on Bournemouth's Tyrone Mings could be a small blessing in disguise. The Swedish hitman has been in great form this season and he will be raring to go having let his manager down. His presence against a solid Chelsea defence could have given his side an edge over their opponents from set-pieces, but he will be fresher for this game and will give players such as Marcus Rashford a chance to rest ahead of the trip to Teesside
Manchester United should win the tie overall, but expect a FC Rostov display that may come as a shock to some Old Trafford fans, they have after all nothing to lose and may see the opportunity as a chance to announce themselves on the big stage, and not many are bigger than Old Trafford.
(FORM GUIDE: DWDWWD)
F.C Rostov, despite being a fledgling European side, look like they are enjoying their European adventure. A solid if not spectacular home tie against Manchester United has given them a chance of progressing through the tie, which is probably more than they expected to achieve following Henri Mikaytarian's opener.
The Russian Premier League side will push Manchester United's side as much as possible, and with them playing more regularly now that their winter break has finished, they may have too much energy for their opponents. Manchester United look tired at the moment, have players missing through injury and domestic concerns looming, so it maybe a good opportunity for them to provide a shock, although following their exploits in their debut Champions League campaign and Europa league adventures the shock will only be minimal.
To qualify for the Champions League, they knocked out another European heavyweight in Ajax, beating them 5-2 over two legs, including a stunning 4-1 home win.
The Champions League campaign also saw the side gain credibility in Europe. The group stage of the competition saw the side beat Bayern 3-2 at home and complete a 2-2 draw with PSV. After the side were demoted to the Europa League they smashed Sparta Prague 4-0 at home in the last round of the Europa League.
Manchester United's quality maybe too much, however, FC Rostov's players will be more fresher and determined to cause an upset.
- The defeat to Chelsea was Manchester United's second since early November.
- There has been three red cards in Manchester United's last seven games.
- Between the two sides, they have only scored one penalty all season.
- Manchester United win 18.5 aerial duels per game, FC Rostov win 14.1.
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This tie looks like it has some way to go, despite Manchester United having the away goal, they are tired, have a depleted squad and their visitors are keen to make their mark. A high intense game could see the tie swing the way of the visitors, Mourinho will be mindful of the weekend trip to Middlesbrough as his side aim for the fourth Champions League qualifying spot, so could rest some key players. The determination of Mourinho to have a strong finish to the season though, should see his side safety through, if not more exhausted.