Jose Mourinho hopes Manchester United’s players will shrug off the effects of the stormy FA Cup loss to Chelsea when they resume Europa League hostilities with a depleted Rostov on Thursday.
Ander Herrera’s 35th-minute dismissal in Monday’s FA Cup quarter-final obliged United to toil with 10 men for an hour as they succumbed to a sapping 1-0 defeat at the hands of Mourinho’s former club.
United have the upper hand against Rostov, having netted an away goal in a 1-1 draw in last week’s last-16 first leg in Russia, but their heavy schedule means freshness remains a concern.
“We have a very important match on Thursday and I want to rest a little bit to try to prepare the team as best we can,” United manager Mourinho told reporters at Stamford Bridge.
“That’s the most important thing now.”
Zlatan Ibrahimovic’s suspension and injuries to Wayne Rooney and Anthony Martial meant Marcus Rashford had to play as a lone striker at Chelsea despite struggling with illness.
But while it is unclear whether Rooney or Martial will feature on Thursday, Ibrahimovic and Herrera will both be at Mourinho’s disposal as their suspensions only apply to domestic matches.
Centre-back Eric Bailly is also available again after missing the first leg through suspension.
With United’s FA Cup quest over, the Europa League is the only piece of silverware Mourinho’s side can hope to add to the League Cup they won with a 3-2 victory over Southampton last month.
Aleksandr Bukharov’s second-half equaliser saved Rostov from defeat last Thursday on a tricky pitch that left Mourinho fuming, but Henrikh Mkhitaryan’s 35th-minute opener meant United were content to return to England with a draw.
“They came back to 1-1 and then you can do two things: you can attack or you can be a bit smarter and know there’s a second leg. We chose the second option,” said United defender Daley Blind.
“We didn’t underestimate them and we know what they’re capable of in the home game.
“I’m sure we’ll play on a better pitch, in better conditions, with all the crowd behind us. We have to finish it at home.”
– ‘Miracle’ –
While the tie appears to remain in the balance, United’s lofty reputation and Rostov’s own selection problems have prompted visiting manager Ivan Daniliants to adopt a cautious stance.
“I expect a very difficult return match,” he said.
“We’re going to Manchester hoping to produce a miracle, which sometimes happen in football. Unfortunately, we will be without a set of first-team players there.”
Rostov captain Aleksandr Katskan and Belarusian winger Timofei Kalachev are both suspended after being booked in the first leg, while full-back Vladimir Granat sustained a fractured collarbone.
First-choice goalkeeper Soslan Dzhanaev has only recently returned from injury and is not expected to play at Old Trafford.
Elsewhere, Lyon will look to close out victory away to Roma after an eye-catching 4-2 win last week in which Nabil Fekir and Alexandre Lacazette scored a pair of superb late goals.
“We’ll need to have the same spirit as in the first match,” Lyon goalkeeper Anthony Lopes told AFP.
“Given our strength in attack, I think we’ll need to score in order to qualify.”
It is all-square in the all-German clash between Borussia Moenchengladbach and Schalke, who drew 1-1 in Gelsenkirchen in their first meeting.
Dutch giants Ajax will attempt to overcome a 2-1 deficit at home to Copenhagen, while Genk’s 5-2 win at Belgian compatriots Gent means they are already within touching distance of the last eight.