Manchester United toiled to victory against Rostov as Jose Mourinho’s men reached the Europa League quarter-finals, with Juan Mata’s moment of class proving the difference on a night devoid of much excitement.
A week that started with an ill-tempered FA Cup quarter-final defeat at Chelsea continued with what was expected to be a straightforward home clash against the unfancied Russians.
Rostov were on the back foot from the outset but were beginning to give United the jitters before Mata ended a move he started, securing a 1-0 second-leg win that sees Mourinho’s men through the last-16 tie 2-1 on aggregate.
Last week United had just been pleased to make the long trip back from Russia with an away goal and without any injuries given the dreadful state of the Olimp-2 pitch.
The superb Old Trafford surface was always going to make the return leg a different prospect and so it proved in a dominant first half, with Zlatan Ibrahimovic twice hitting the woodwork as United got away 12 attempts and enjoyed 76 per cent possession.
However, it took until the 70th minute for Mata to settle growing nerves, turning home from close range having started the move just inside his own half.
There was still time for a few scares but back-up goalkeeper Sergio Romero saved United’s blushes, denying substitute Aleksandr Bukharov’s header before an exceptional stoppage-time save from Rostov captain Christian Noboa’s free-kick.