Manchester United drew FC Rostov in the Europa League Round of 16 draw. They are an unknown quantity to some people and hence it might look like a straightforward draw for United to those very same people. But, it isn’t. Rostov may sit seventh in the Russian League, being closer to the bottom than the top, but they are a side who do know how to perform when the big day comes around.
And they most certainly know how to perform on the European stage. They defeated Anderlecht and Ajax to enter the Champions League. Those two sides were favourites to defeat Rostov but the Russian outfit got through both of them. They defeated Bayern in the group stage and didn’t let either them or Atletico Madrid stomp them in the games they lost. They beat PSV Eindhoven to 3rd place, which was another surprise. They then defeated Rubin Kazan in the Round of 32 by a comprehensive margin of 4-0. Even in the Russian league, they have put up good performances against the likes of CSKA Moscow, Zenit St. Petersburg and Spartak Moscow and also defeated them. They finished second in the Russian league last season, their best ever season. They, as Jose Mourinho would say, are a poisoned gift.
Rostov are a side who play counter-attacking football against big opposition. They are set up well by their manager Ivan Daniliants to defend. Being a Russian side, they are quite physical in their defending. They can be dangerous from set-pieces as well. Their 5-3-2 formation suits their style of play. They like to sit back and they rely on set-pieces or mistakes from the opposition or counter attacks to get their goals. But when they have the ball, they are not afraid to go forward.
Rostov currently lack a natural goalscorer. Their top scorer in the Russian league is Dmitry Poloz who has got just 4 goals so far. They don’t have any top players in their side. Should we get 2 or more goals in the away leg, the tie will be in our control going into the home leg. United have to travel over 3,000 miles to Russia so the first leg being away is better for them as they wouldn’t have to travel to Chelsea, Rostov and Middlesbrough in the same week. Having the first leg away will give United a clearer strategy for the home leg.
Despite them being a decent side, there shouldn’t be any excuses for United for not coming away with victory and having got a taste of the EFL Cup Trophy, the team are in great spirit and are hungry for more.