Jose Mourinho's Manchester United selection plans left in tatters over the condition of FC Rostov's pitch

Serious concerns about the state of the pitch in Russia have the Manchester United boss at a loss as to which of his players to risk on Thursday night

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Jose Mourinho today accused Uefa officials of not caring whether his Manchester United players were injured on a playing surface he likened to ‘a field’.  

The Manchester United manager said the surface at Rostov’s grandly-named Olimp-2 Stadium was similar to the one at the Bird’s Nest Stadium in Beijing, where a pre-season derby between United and City was abandoned in July because both Mourinho and Pep Guardiola felt their players might be injured on it.

Mourinho has long felt that the tie should be postponed or moved to another venue. 

 

He said the match should have been moved long before Manchester United flew out to southern Russia. If the game is to be called off, United have to make a formal application at tomorrow’s organisational meeting.

 “It’s still hard for me to believe we are going to play tomorrow I know we have to but it is hard to believe we are playing on that field if you call it a field,” said Mourinho. “I don’t know which team I am going to play.

"It is a very similar pitch to the one we played on in the summer in China. Then we and Manchester City decided we should not play but here we have to play.

“I have not had any contact with anyone until just now when I had quick contact with one gentleman from Uefa when I was looking at the pitch. When I told him of my concerns, the gentleman told me that the players are insured and, if someone is injured, then no problem.”

It is hard to see what Manchester United would gain by postponing the first leg of this Europa League round of 16. As soon as they return from Russia, they will have to prepare for an FA Cup quarter-final with Chelsea. Their Premier League run-in, with fixtures against Arsenal, Tottenham, Chelsea and the Manchester derby still to come, is also utterly unforgiving.

The last time Mourinho was in this part of the former Soviet Union, he was preparing for a Europa League group game against Luhansk that had been moved to Odessa. Mourinho was also fiercely critical of that playing surface. It was December and the frozen surface was treated with hot air blown over it. Manchester United won that match and they are still favourites to win this one.

In Rostov, conditions were spring-like as Mourinho’s players trained on a surface that was threadbare and mottled. The Manchester United defender, Daley Blind, remarked that although the pitch was poor, it was better to play and win the game than postpone and return.

“I have just been outside and the pitch is not the best,” he said. “It is not good and you have to concentrate, try to focus and try to win. That is what we are here for. The pitch is not good but it cannot be an excuse for us.”

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