Manchester United have been drawn against Russian Premier League side Rostov in the Europa League round of 16, presenting Jose Mourinho with precisely the draw he said he did not want.
The manager expressed concern earlier in the week before the Europa League draw took place over the scheduling of the FA Cup quarterfinal match against Chelsea on March 13, which will be played just four days after United play the first leg against Rostov away from home.
“Imagine we play Chelsea on Monday and then we have to go to the second match in Europe in Russia, Turkey or Greece,” Mourinho said on Wednesday.
United will encounter an opportunistic Rostov side that faced a difficult run in the Champions League and made a statement in the Europa League round of 32.
Where are they based?
Rostov are one of two clubs in Rostov-on-Don, which is located in Russia’s Southern Federal District — just 45 miles (70 kilometres) from the border with Ukraine. It’s slightly over 1,800 miles (3,000km) from Manchester, approximately four-and-a-half hours on a plane, and, after Krasnodar, the second-longest trip United could have made in this stage of the Europa League.
How big is their stadium?
Rostov play at Olimp-2, a stadium that was originally built in 1930, renovated in 2001 and again in 2009. With a capacity of 15,840, it’s among the smallest grounds currently used by a Russian Premier League side, with 10 percent of capacity is reserved for visiting supporters. Russia is building a 45,000-seater stadium for use in the 2018 FIFA World Cup, which Rostov will move into from the following season.
Rostov is probably the worst possible draw for Man United. Long trip, bad pitch, a team set up perfectly to cause upsets v bigger clubs. – Artur Petrosyan (@arturpetrosyan) tweeted.
Where are they in the Russian league?
Currently seventh, with 25 points from 17 games. Rostov, who have won consecutive matches in the league just once this season, resume their campaign after a winter break on March 2 at FK Tom Tomsk.
Who did they beat to reach this stage?
Rostov defeated Sparta Prague 5-1 on aggregate in the Europa League round of 32, winning the home leg 4-0 before a 1-1 draw away.
They entered the Europa League in the round of 32 after finishing third in the group stage of the Champions League. Before then, Rostov had defeated Anderlecht in the third qualifying round and Ajax in the playoff round, then took only five points in Group D, where they faced Atletico Madrid and Bayern Munich.
“[United] will be tough, but we had already beaten Bayern and played Atletico this season,” midfielder Christian Noboa said, according to Sport-Express. “We did our utmost against them. We’ll do that again and try to progress, and let’s see what happens. I wouldn’t say we wanted an easier opponent. It’s an opportunity to show ourselves. We’ll see what we are compared to a top English club.”
Who is their manager?
It depends who you ask. Although Ivan Danilyants is listed as the coach on the club’s website, Kurban Berdyev, long considered one of Russia’s best coaches and officially their vice president, is the one running the team. Berdyev suddenly resigned in August, beginning a bizarre saga where he was expected to become the next coach at Spartak Moscow before negotiations fell through.
Though he returned to Rostov, he doesn’t want the title and instead prefers that Dmitri Kirichenko, a former Russia international, be the coach. Kirichenko, though, doesn’t hold a coaching licence, leaving Danilyants to bear the official title.
Jose Mourinho met Kurban Berdyev’s Rubin Kazan with Inter on the way to winning the Champions League in 2010.
Those are good memories. #MUFC
Who is their top scorer?
Striker Dmitry Poloz leads Rostov with 11 goals in all competitions. Six of those strikes have come in Europe, including a brace against PSV Eindhoven in the group stage of the Champions League. Iran international Sardar Azmoun has scored seven goals in all competitions and Noboa, a teammate of United’s Antonio Valencia with the Ecuador national team, has netted six.
Former Tottenham Hotspur midfielder David Bentley became the first Englishman to play in the Russian Premier League when he was loaned to Rostov in 2012. He played in seven games for the club, starting three.
“I thought three or four months would be good,” told FourFourTwo.com last month. “Someone told me I would be the first English player to play out there and that milestone appealed to me, too. The club are in the south of Russia, the weather was great and I liked it. It was certainly an experience.”