The Europa League continues on, and the round of 16 is set to begin soon. English football club Manchester United is slated to face Russian club FC Rostov, and many would expect United, the juggernaut of the league, to pick up an easy victory. However, United manager José Mourinho is less than confident. In fact, he was livid at the condition of the pitch.
“It’s still hard for me to believe we are going to play tomorrow. I know we have to, but it is hard for me to believe we are going to play tomorrow in that field, if you can call it a field.”
“I don’t know what team to play, really. I don’t know if Henrikh Mkhitaryan is going to play. I have now a lot to think about because I was expecting something more playable. It was a very similar pitch in the summer in China when we and Manchester City decided not to play, but it looks like we have to play.”
“I didn’t have any contact with anyone until now [about the pitch]. I just had a quick contact with one gentleman from UEFA when I was looking at the pitch and when I told him about my concerns, the gentleman told me the players are insured, so if something happens, no problem.”
According to Mourinho, the turf was overgrown and patchy, which could cause players to get caught in a trip on the turf. He said he was surprised at the condition of the field, because he thought it that in Rostov’s previous matches, the pitch looked “playable.”
“In their previous matches against Bayern Munich, Ajax, Atletico Madrid, it looked for me a very playable pitch and I was very surprised with what I found here today.”
Players also voiced their own concerns regarding the state of the pitch. However, Dutch defender Daley Blind said that the team was going to play its best, regardless of Rostov’s pitch.
“The pitch is not good, maybe not for safety as well, but it is no an excuse, we want to win here and try to play a good game.”
Rostov manager Ivan Daniliants fired back, saying that Rostov’s field, the Olimp-2 stadium, was not the worst and that players get injured all the time.
“There were no incidents on this pitch before because we already played against Sparta Prague and the pitch was actually worse.”
“For sure we would like to play on better pitch, like Wembley. We understand that even our players can be injured. But football is a contact sport and maybe players get injured anyway on best pitches with the best weather conditions.”
Mourinho has been seemingly unhappy since drawing Rostov last February.
“It’s a bad draw in every aspect. It’s far and is difficult. It’s far and comes in a bad period for us. It’s difficult because they are a very difficult team; they had a very good Champions League campaign. They had a very difficult group with [Bayern Munich] and [Atletico Madrid] but they managed important results against them.”
It is sure to be an interesting showdown as both teams will not back down and have shown incredible resilience and tenacity to make it this far. One on hand, United is a constant fixture in the upper echelons of the English Premier League. On the other hand, Rostov held their own in the Champions League. Although they did not advance, they picked up victories against Ajax and Bayern Munich. When they were placed in the Europa League round of 32, they steamrolled Czech club Sparta Prague, beating them 4-0 at home before tying 1-1 to win on an aggregate score of 5-1 to advance to the round of 16.
The match will take place on March 9, at 2 p.m. EST.
[Featured Image by Laurent Cipriani/AP Images]