Jose Mourinho says Manchester United made the best of difficult conditions by claiming a 1-1 draw from their Europa League last-16 first-leg clash in Rostov on Thursday.
Henrikh Mkhitaryan gave United the lead 10 minutes before the break on his return from injury, but Aleksandr Bukharov equalised for Rostov early in the second period.
United struggled to hit their stride on Rostov’s sub-standard pitch and Mourinho said his side could not have played better considering the state of the Russian surface.
“It was a very good performance in relation to the conditions,” Mourinho told BT Sport. “It was impossible to have the ball and play a passing game. We played what the game demanded and we played well.
“We made one defensive mistake and we can’t concede that goal with the movement behind the defenders but we coped with the intensity of their direct game and the result is what we could expect. It is open for the second leg with a little advantage for us.
“I talked before the game [about the pitch] and I don’t want to talk more and more, it’s done with no injuries and the result is open to the second leg.
“It’s an experience for all of us – our football life is full of experiences and this is a new one for us.
“I remember as a kid in Portugal some matches like this, real amateurs with fight, but our players coped with this, they fight for every ball and for a good result and it is a good feeling for me.”
Jose Mourinho on tonight’s #MUFC display…
— Manchester United (@ManUtd) March 9, 2017
United experimented with Phil Jones, Chris Smalling and Marcos Rojo as a back three ahead of an FA Cup quarter-final at Premier League leaders Chelsea on Monday and Mourinho was pleased with how his side adapted to the new system.
“I think the back three worked very well, the only problem was the goal because playing against two strikers we were always in control,” Mourinho said. “First half, we were completely in control and I didn’t see us conceding, but we did.
“They are very direct, they don’t use wingers, it’s just to put the ball in the box. Our three guys in the middle had a very positive game.
“We could have scored a second goal but I knew it wouldn’t be full of goalscoring opportunities. A difficult match – but [we return to] Old Trafford.”
11 – Jose Mourinho’s sides have scored an away goal in the first leg of a European tie in 11 of the 13 games he has overseen. Vital.
— OptaJoe (@OptaJoe) March 9, 2017
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