Russian side welcomes Man United fans with blankets

Supporters are well looked after as players avoid injury on terrible pitch and fly home for Chelsea showdown

Manchester United's Zlatan Ibrahimovic fights for the ball in the first leg of their Europa league last-16 tie against Russia
(Image credit: Alexander Nemenov/AFP/Getty Images)

Manchester United returned from Rostov with a 1-1 draw that puts them in the driving seat ahead of the second leg of their Europa League last 16 clash against the Russian side.

The visitors took the lead through Henrikh Mkhitaryan but were pegged back in the second half by Aleksandr Bukharov. But United may be pleased that nobody was hurt on a sub-standard pitch and that there was harmony in the stands, despite fears of violence.

Concerns over the playing surface dominated the build-up to the match with Jose Mourinho calling for the game to be postponed. "After the match started the United manager's view was to be more than vindicated," says The Guardian. "The pitch was a tricky combination of high bounce, uneven turf and loose soil that could scatter whenever a pass was made."

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There were a few scares as "United players often struggled to keep their feet and retain full control of the ball", says the Daily Telegraph. There were sighs of relief for the travelling support when Zlatan Ibrahimovic rose uninjured after taking a tumble in the second half.

While the pitch caused problems, there were no issues off it, notes the paper, which says "FC Rostov went the extra mile... handing out blankets to the visiting fans as the temperature dropped well into single digits".

Before the match there were concerns about security but they were unfounded. "The whole experience appeared much more pleasant than had been feared.

"United's travelling faithful numbered in the hundreds and many made use of the complimentary blankets, which had the words 'Gentlefan, Russian warm welcome' printed on the back."

While the fans were well looked after, Mourinho will be hoping his stars recover in time for their FA Cup clash with Chelsea on Monday. The players flew back to England straight after the game and "many of the United stars looked very jaded as they touched down in Manchester in the early hours of Friday morning", reports the Daily Mail.

"Mourinho will be hoping that his players won't be mentally and physically drained when they face Antonio Conte's Chelsea side at Stamford Bridge."

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