Jose Mourinho’s debut season at Old Trafford is going well as his Manchester United side are active in all the competitions at the moment. They are just 2 points off a place in the top 4 of the league while are also into the Round of 16 of the Europa League, which could be their backdoor to UCL. After the victory over Saint-Etienne in the previous round, United were drawn with Russian outfit FC Rostov in the next round of Europa League. Rostov are on a dream run in Europe this season having managed to get into the round of 16 with a thumping victory over Sparta Prague in the previous round. The difference in the quality between the two sides is vast but here are 3 reasons why this will be a tough test for United and why they may well drop out of the Europa League in this round if they don’t focus.
FC Rostov’s road to Europa League Round of 32:
Rostov have qualified for Europe for just the 4th time in their history and the Round of 16 of the Europa League is the farthest they have come in Europe’s elite competitions. Having qualified for the Champions League, Rostov were drawn against the likes of Bayern Munich, Atletico Madrid, and PSV Eindhoven. They beat Ajax and Anderlecht in the qualifiers. They got the better of the Dutch outfit PSV and managed to finish 3rd in the table, earning their way into the Europa League. They were drawn with Prague in the Round of 32 and a 5-1 victory on aggregate set this tie up. Manchester United, with all their quality, can easily become one of the many victims in this fairy tale for Rostov.
Manchester United’s travel:
European fixtures are all about your team traveling to the best in the other leagues to compete for glory. Though a normal trip to Rostov should not be that hard, Manchester United will have to travel to Rostov Oblast in the north of Russia. A round travel of close to 5000 miles is surely going to take the stuffing out of the team. The Red Devils will travel to the Olimp-2 in the second week of May, not too long after the winter break in the Russian league and their away game in the round of 16 will take a lot out of the squad. Mourinho is expected to field his strongest side to try and take an early advantage and this might push extra pressure on Manchester United who will have to be at their best in both legs. Surely it is a tougher clash than expected for the Red Devils.
A constant issue for clubs in England is the schedule. It will also play it’s part in making this tie a tough one for Manchester United. After the 4500 mile round trip to Rostov, United face Chelsea in the FA Cup quarter-final away from home. And just two days after the trip to the Bridge, United welcome Rostov back to Old Trafford, to keep themselves alive in the competition. And less than 48 hours after this game, United will have to travel to Riverside to take on Aitor Karanka’s Middlesbrough in the Premier League. This means that the Red Devils will play 4 games in 12 days and is sure to take its toll on the squad and maybe even on the results.
The game against FC Rostov might be a banana skin and Manchester United have to ensure that they don’t slip on it.