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16th Mar 2017

Everyone was left baffled by Rostov’s bench against Man Utd

A few people did a double-take


FC Rostov might have been underdogs for their Europa League second-leg meeting with Manchester United, but this still felt odd.

The Russian club, who dropped down from the Champions League after finishing third in their group behind Atletico Madrid and Bayern Munich, held United to a 1-1 draw in their first leg.

That left José Mourinho’s side knowing a goalless draw, or a win by any scoreline, would see them progress to the quarter-finals.

And they will surely have been given extra encouragement by the state of their opponents’ substitutes bench for the return leg at Old Trafford.

With seven substitute slots available, Rostov named just four men on the bench – including first leg goalscorer Aleksandr Bukharov and January signing Marko Dević.

Those watching the game were confused more than anything, with no reason initially given for the Russian outfit seemingly travelling light, though injuries and suspensions are thought to have played a part.

Some United fans grew in confidence after hearing the news, but others were terrified at the treatment they might get if they fail to progress.

The threadbare Rostov squad conjures memories of Stoke City’s European exploits under Tony Pulis in the 2011/12 season, when they travelled with a squad of 15 for their knockout defeat at the hands of Valencia (and only used two of their four available replacements on the night).