Nyon (Switzerland) (AFP) – Favourites Manchester United were drawn on Friday to face faraway Russian outfit Rostov, who unlike Jose Mourinho were delighted with the Europa League last-16 tie.
Mourinho’s side beat French club Saint-Etienne 4-0 on aggregate in the last 32 and the English club will now travel to Russia on Thursday, March 9 with the second leg in Manchester a week later on March 16.
Mourinho said this week he wanted to avoid a Russian club as United face Chelsea in the FA Cup in between.
“It’s a bad draw in every aspect,” said Mourinho on Friday. It’s far and comes in a very bad period for us. Difficult because they’re a very difficult team.
“They have a very good Champions League campaign, they beat Ajax and Anderlecht in playoffs. And in the group phase, a difficult group with Bayern and Atletico, they managed good results against them.”
But the draw was greeted with delight in Rostov.
“We reacted with joy on seeing the draw,” Rostov director Ali Uzdenov told R-Sport agency.
“The guys are ready to face any opponent, Man United especially,” he said.
“These matches will be very special events for everyone in Rostov, not just football fans.”
Rostov coach Dmitry Kirichenko said he would prepare his players for a fight.
“Man United are probably the strongest possible opponents that we could get,” he said. “It’s great that our fans will be able to see so many super clubs here.
“We’ll prepare for the match in the best possible way, to fight at our maximum, to show our character and do our very best.”
Italian side AS Roma, also among the competition favourites, drew French club Lyon in what is probably the clash of the round.
Lyon beat Dutch outfit AZ Alkmaar 7-1 on Thursday and 11-2 on aggregate, but the smiles vanished with the Roma draw.
“The draw is what it is,” said Lyon coach Bruno Genesio. “But if you want to win a competition you have to beat the big teams, and Roma is a big team.”
There is an all-German pairing as Schalke 04 take on Borussia Moenchengladbach, while two of the three remaining Belgian sides were also cast together as Genk drew Gent.
Anderlecht landed Cypriots Apoel as Greek champions Olympiakos play Turkey’s Besiktas.
Celta Vigo — La Liga’s sole remaining representative in the second-tier European competition — host another Russian outfit Krasnodar as Dutch giants Ajax travel to FC Copenhagen.
Celta Vigo (ESP) v Krasnodar (RUS)
Apoel Nicosia (CYP) v Anderlecht (BEL)
Schalke 04 (GER) v Borussia Mönchengladbach (GER)
Lyon (FGRA) v Roma (ITA)
Rostov (RUS) v Manchester United (ENG)
Olympiakos (GRE) v Besiktas (TUR)
Gent (BEL) v Genk (BEL)
FC Copenhagen (DEN) v Ajax (NED)
Note: 1st leg, March 9; 2nd leg, March 16
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