José Mourinho furious concerns over Rostov pitch laughed off
Surface has caused Manchester United boss to think carefully about his selection
Manchester United manager Jose Mourinho during a press conference at Rostov’s Olimp-2 in Russia. Photograph: Reuters/Maxim Shemetov
United are due to play Russia’s seventh-placed side on Thursday night in the first leg of a Europa League last-16 tie. Mourinho had indicated he would like the game staged elsewhere, and believes such a decision could have been made when the draw was made a fortnight ago.
However, a statement from Uefa yesterday said: “A pitch inspection has been carried out by the match officials on Wednesday. The playing surface may not be in perfect condition, but has been deemed playable. The match will go ahead as scheduled.”
When Mourinho saw the pitch for the first time Wednesday he was dismayed. He compared it to the one at Beijing’s National Stadium in the summer when a friendly between United and Manchester City was called off because of reservations regarding its sandy and loose surface.
Mourinho was furious that his concerns about the pitch were not taken seriously when he mentioned it to a Uefa delegate. Instead, United believe, it was met with laughter.
During United training on Wednesday afternoon dirt was constantly churned up as players kicked the ball.
Mourinho said: “It is hard for me to believe we are going to play tomorrow in that field – if you can call it a field. I didn’t have any contact with anyone until now [about the pitch]. I just had a quick contact with one gentleman from Uefa when I was looking at the pitch and when I told him about my concerns, the gentleman told me the players are insured, so if something happens, no problem.”
Rostov have already beaten Ajax, 4-1, and Bayern Munich, 3-2, at the Olimp-2 this season, but that was before the winter. Mourinho said: “In their previous matches against Bayern Munich, Ajax, Atlético Madrid [a 1-0 loss], in all these matches it looked for me a very playable pitch and I was very surprised with what I found here today.”
Mourinho had nothing to say regarding Zlatan Ibrahimovic’s three-game domestic ban that was given to the Swede by the Football Association for elbowing Tyrone Mings in Saturday’s 1-1 draw with Bournemouth. “I have no reaction. He plays tomorrow, and I don’t comment about the domestic decision.”
Regarding the surface, United midfielder Daley Blind said: “I’ve just been outside and to be honest it’s not the best. It’s not good. Maybe the quality of the game will be a bit different. But it doesn’t have to be an excuse for us. We have to concentrate and play the game and try to win – that’s what we’re here for.
Last month Rostov beat Sparta Prague 4-0 at the Olimp-2 in their Europa League last-32 tie. The Russian club’s manager, Ivan Danilyants, said: “We understand that even now players can be injured. Football is a contact sport and maybe players get injured anyway on the best pitches with the best weather conditions.
“We would like to play on the best fields but it’s not our decision. There were no incidents on this pitch before because we already played against Sparta Prague and the pitch was actually worse. We understand that it’s not a decision of our club, it’s Uefa’s decision to play the match. For sure we would like to play on a better pitch like Wembley.” Guardian service