Manchester United were denied victory in the Europa League Round of 16 first leg against FC Rostov but will lay claim to gaining a slender advantage after Henrikh Mkhitaryan scored an important away goal.

The fit-again Armenian scored for the third successive Europa League away game this season, converting from close range 10 minutes before half-time to put the Reds in the ascendency.

Aleksandr Bukharov equalised early in the second period as the hosts grew into the game but, in tricky conditions at the Olimp-2 stadium in southern Russia, Jose Mourinho’s side delivered a professional performance and, against a side with an erratic away record, will be confident of finishing the job in next week’s second leg at Old Trafford.

Following the concerns he expressed about the condition of the pitch, Mourinho made seven changes to his side, with Ashley Young and Daley Blind deployed as wing-backs to counter Rostov’s similar formation.

The uneven playing surface and swirling wind contributed to a scrappy game, punctuated by a real moment of quality for the opening goal, which came out of the blue after an almost chanceless opening half-hour.

Marouane Fellaini controlled a long cross-field pass from Phil Jones on his chest and found Zlatan Ibrahimovic, who cut the ball back from the touchline for Mkhitaryan to stroke home. It was no doubt appreciated by the sizeable Armenian contingent in the crowd, not to mention the 238 hardy United fans tucked into one corner of the ground.

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