It was after midnight in Russia when United began the 2,100-mile journey from Rostov following a hard-fought 1-1 draw. Referring to the club’s youth-team manager, Mourinho said he would “not be taking a Nicky Butt team to Stamford Bridge” even though they play the second leg of their Europa League tie with Rostov three days later.
In this Mourinho is taking a sharply different course of action to Manchester City, who last season sent a hopelessly weakened side to Chelsea as their manager, Manuel Pellegrini, prioritised the Champions League.
Rostov vs Manchester United player ratings
Rostov vs Manchester United player ratings
1/11 Sergio Romero - 5 out of 10
Could have stood much taller against Aleksandr Bukharov and perhaps prevented the goal.
2/11 Chris Smalling - 4 out of 10
Almost as culpable as Jones for the goal. Some simple communication between the pair would have prevented Rostov’s goal.
3/11 Phil Jones - 4 out of 10
Cost his side when he failed to track Bukharov's run over his shoulder. Too easily beaten by the long ball out the back.
4/11 Marcos Rojo – 6 out of 10
United’s best defender, though that is not saying much. Produced an important, last-ditch tackle to deny Rostov on the break late on.
5/11 Ashley Young - 6 out of 10
Showed purpose from wing-back in the first-half but ultimately lacked a telling end-product.
6/11 Daley Blind - 5 out of 10
Left with too much responsibility as a lone man on the left flank. Struggled to offer United the width they required to penetrate.
7/11 Marouane Fellaini - 7 out of 10
One player who suited the adverse conditions underfoot and repeated balls over the top. Combined his physicality with a rare bit of technique in the build-up to Henrikh Mkhitaryan's goal.
8/11 Ander Herrera – 5 out of 10
Game for the rough tackling that defined the first half hour but offered little more.
9/11 Paul Pogba – 4 out of 10
Failed to impose himself on a game once again. Jose Mourinho is trying to play him into form but he remains some way off.
10/11 Henrikh Mkhitaryan – 7 out of 10
A promising return to the side, curtailed by his second-half substitution. There at the right place at the right time to put away the opener.
11/11 Zlatan Ibrahimovic – 6 out of 10
A sublime assist for the opener, then too quiet after it, but rarely received service in the right areas.
However, with Manchester United by no means guaranteed to finish in the Premier League’s top four and the Europa League winners qualifying for the Champions League, Mourinho cannot afford to be picky.
“We have to keep the two doors open,” he said. “We need to keep going in the Premier League and, if you are in the quarter final, we would feel the door is open to us in the Europa League. We have to try by every means.
“We have a trophy in our pocket (the League Cup) and that is a good feeling for everybody. I know we have to beat Rostov at Old Trafford to reach the quarter-finals but we cannot go with a Nicky Butt team because last season Manchester United was the winner of the competition.”
Nevertheless, Mourinho recognised that his side had performed well under difficult circumstances. Rostov had only lost once on their own ground in European competitions this season and the Manchester United manager had compared their pitch to “a field”.
“This is the knockout phase and, if we were in a group stage and it was all about points, Rostov would have been happy with a point but they have lost two important defenders in Timofei Kalachev and Vladimir Granat, who are suspended for the game at Old Trafford,” said Mourinho. “They had to try everything to be in front for the second leg and we know that a 1-1 draw is not a bad result for us at all.”
However, Mourinho argued that although Rostov have a very shaky away record in Europe, they will still present a danger. “The game is still open and this Rostov team have experience in playing big matches against big opponents. They also have an extra day’s rest. They play Terek Grozny on Sunday and we play at Chelsea on Monday.”
Mourinho also played down his touchline row with Kalachev during the game. He said: “After the match we spoke, we hugged and we said nice things to each other. He apologised and I told him I was glad he would not be playing at Old Trafford. After the match we were nice - during the match it was ‘shut up’.”Reuse content