The Associated PressMANCHESTER (AP) — Manchester United’s progress to the Europa League quarterfinals came at a cost after Paul Pogba hobbled off with a hamstring injury in the 1-0 win over Rostov on Thursday.
United manager Jose Mourinho suggested Pogba “paid a price” for the team’s accumulation of fixtures as the world’s most expensive player pulled up in the 47th minute at Old Trafford and slumped to the ground.
The English club ended up stumbling through to the last eight, with Juan Mata’s 70th-minute goal winning the second leg and clinching a 2-1 victory on aggregate.
United will be the standout team in the draw for the quarterfinals in Nyon on Friday, with Lyon potentially the biggest rival.
The French side lost 2-1 at Roma but went through 5-4 on aggregate because of its big win at home last week.
There looks to be good depth in French soccer at present, with Monaco qualifying for the Champions League quarterfinals and Paris Saint-Germain missing out only because of a sensational second-leg fightback in the last 16.
Mouctar Diakhaby put Lyon ahead in the 16th before Roma fought back through Kevin Strootman’s strike and Lucas Tousard’s own goal.
Compared to recent years, Europe’s second-tier competition is shorn of genuine quality.
United will be the favorite and is taking the competition seriously as it offers a route into the Champions League.
United is sixth in the English Premier League, with only the top four securing Champions League qualification.
Fatigue might prove to be a factor for Mourinho’s side, though.
Injuries are mounting, with Daley Blind joining Pogba in going off early in the second half and Marcos Rojo playing on through injury to the final whistle. In a bid to give Rojo some energy, Mourinho sent a banana onto the field for the defender to eat.
Having played away to Chelsea in the F.A. Cup on Monday night, United faces a Premier League match at Middlesbrough on Sunday lunchtime. That will be United’s fifth game in 16 days.