Mourinho provides banana skin as Man Utd ease past Rostov
United book place in the last eight of Europa League after routine win is marred by injury to Paul Pogba
Manchester United 1 Rostov 0 [Man Utd win 2-1 on aggregate]
It was Jose Mourinho rather than Rostov who provided the banana skin when Manchester United booked their place in the Europa League quarter-finals by beating their limited Russian opponents at Old Trafford.
The win came courtesy of a goal from Juan Mata in the second half of an underwhelming match that nonetheless provided plenty to talk about.
"What should have been a routine night against modest Russian opposition had a sumptuous goal, a banana, an inhaler, Phil Jones at left wing back and a Marouane Fellaini chest trap and juggling cameo," says Henry Winter of The Times. It also featured an injury to Paul Pogba, who will miss at least three weeks, while Rostov were unable to even name a full bench of substitutes.
Mata's goal came after a rare moment of excitement when United broke forward with Henrikh Mkhitaryan whose centre was back-heeled into Mata's path by Zlatan Ibrahimovic.
The other highlights included Jones's request for an asthma inhaler shortly after coming off the bench and a banana for Marcus Rojo, who apparently found himself in need of a pick-me-up. The snack was thoughtfully peeled for him by Mourinho and handed to Ashley Young, then conveyed to the defender.
Afterwards Mourinho adopted his usual grumpy persona, bemoaning the fact that United were still a long way from returning to the summit of the European game, while also hitting out at his side's unforgiving fixture list. But he would have been relieved to draw Anderlecht in the last eight of the competition rather than a more far-flung opponent.
But he has a point. "Anyone who watched United crowbar their way into the Europa League quarter-finals here against a spirited but limited FC Rostov will understand what Mourinho means... the Portuguese believes his task of revitalising the club is being undermined by a schedule that he fears has left his team at breaking point," says James Ducker of the Daily Telegraph.
"Convincing this was most certainly not, the night following a similar theme to many games at Old Trafford this season, with United carving enough chances to put the game to bed early on only for that familiar wastefulness to leave them vulnerable after the interval."