Man Utd 1 Rostov 0 (Agg 2-1); Juan Mata strike sees Red Devils through

Juan Mata scored with his first shot of the game

Juan Mata scored with his first shot of the game


Manchester United edged a nervy encounter with Russian minnows FC Rostov at Old Trafford to reach the Europa League quarter-finals with a 2-1 aggregate victory.

Jose Mourinho’s side dominated for large periods, Henrikh Mkhitaryan shooting wide when one-on-one and Zlatan Ibrahimovic twice hitting the post before the break.

Rostov had set up to frustrate their hosts but, after United were disrupted by the loss of Paul Pogba to an apparent hamstring injury, they briefly threatened to snatch an unlikely lead when Sardar Azmoun forced a decent save out of Sergio Romero.

But, as the visitors became more adventurous, United hit them on the break, Ibrahimovic flicking the ball into Juan Mata’s path for the midfielder to fire home from close range.

A goal for Rostov would have sent the game to extra time but Romero again made a crucial save right at the end from Christian Noboa’s free-kick.

United will find out on Friday who they will play in the quarter-finals, with the draw taking place at 12:00 GMT.

Can United go all the way?

Ibrahimovic was once again United's main threat throughout the game

Ibrahimovic was once again United’s main threat throughout the game

The Europa League is the only major trophy that has so far eluded United, but winning the competition is not just about collecting another piece of silverware.

With a guaranteed place in next season’s Champions League for the winners, United, who are sixth in the Premier League, would not have to rely solely on finishing in the top four.

Mourinho showed he was in no mood to take any chances by naming a strong side against Rostov, with Ibrahimovic – who is serving a three-match domestic ban – reinstated.

The Swedish striker, absent from Monday’s 1-0 FA Cup quarter-final defeat at Chelsea, looked fresh and hungry from the outset, hitting the post from close range early on before cracking another effort against the upright before the break.

Those chances aside, United struggled to find a way through a packed Rostov defence and it looked as though they would have to rely on the goal they scored in Russia to scrape into the quarter-finals.

An inventive bit of skill by Ibrahimovic helped make the breakthrough in the end, but United know they will need to improve if they are to go all the way in the competition, with better sides than Rostov waiting.

Injuries mounting for United

Pogba has scored seven goals and provided five assists for United this season

Pogba has scored seven goals and provided five assists for United this season

It was a victory that came at a cost for Mourinho as he lost Pogba and Daley Blind to injury.

Midfielder Pogba has come in for criticism recently, but Mourinho clearly sees the £89m midfielder as a crucial part of his side.

The France international was making his 41st appearance of the season for United but has rarely dominated a game, and he was largely a peripheral figure here before pulling up early in the second half.

Mourinho was then forced into another change, and a reshuffle at the back, when defender Blind went off midway through the half with suspected concussion.

With a congested fixture list caused by United battling for Europa League success and a place in the Premier League top four, Mourinho will hope neither player is out for an extended period.

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