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Mourinho happy with United's Europa draw

Press Association logoPress Association 9/03/2017 Simon Peach

Manchester United manager Jose Mourinho is relieved to be leaving Russia with an away goal and fully-fit squad after a tough Europa League 1-1 draw on Rostov's quagmire pitch.

The last-16 first leg in southern Russia proved a predictably difficult assignment, but United coped manfully on the sandy, rock-solid playing surface that infuriated the Portuguese in the build-up.

UEFA deemed the surface playable and, fortunately for European football's governing body and Mourinho, United made the 1,875-mile journey home unscathed.

They would have also gone back with a first-leg win was it not for Aleksandr Bukharov making it 1-1, although Henrikh Mkhitaryan's away goal could prove crucial in next week's return leg at Old Trafford.

"We go home with a positive result," Mourinho said at the Olimp-2 stadium.

"We know that it will be a difficult match, we know that we need to win or to have a 0-0 draw, so the game is open.

"The tie is open, but in these circumstances I think it was a positive result.

"An away goal is always positive. It is better 1-1 that 0-0, obviously.

"But the game is open, the result is open and this Rostov team have experience of playing big matches, big opponents, big stadiums.

"I don't think it is a problem for them to go to Old Trafford and to compete against us.

"They play Sunday against Terek Grozny, we play Monday against Chelsea. Who knows, we could have extra-time and 30 minutes more to play, so for us it is difficult.

"But we are one step from being in the quarter-finals, the players have that motivation.

"The fans for sure at Old Trafford will push with us. Hopefully in one week's time, we go to the quarter-final."

There was an air of relief from Mourinho after the testing first leg in Rostov-on-Don, even if he regularly underlined the tie is far from over.

The immediate attention now switches to Monday's trip to Stamford Bridge, where United were humiliated 4-0 as the Portuguese made an embarrassing return to his former stomping ground in October.

Mourinho is hoping to make amends in the FA Cup quarter-final and pledged not to rely on Nicky Butt's reserve team despite the holders' bloated fixture schedule.

"We want to keep the two doors open," he said, regarding the Premier League and Europa League offering routes to the Champions League.

"We have to keep getting points in the Premier League to let us go to the last months of the competition with that door open.

"In the Europa League, if we manage to go through this knock-out round, we go to the quarter-final and then you feel that the door is open.

"So we have to try, we have to try by every means. We have a trophy in our pocket, which is always a good thing, a good feeling for everyone."

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