The Red Devils faced a difficult 3,750-mile round trip for the game in south Russia – and they were cheered on by 238 travelling supporters, who each had their visas paid for by the club and were given blankets on entering the ground.
Mourinho set up with three centre-backs and Ashley Young and Daley Blind acting as wing-backs in a change of formation for the Premier League side.
The Portuguese manager spoke before the game about deploying a more “direct” approach because of the dreadful pitch, but he may also have had Monday’s FA Cup quarter-final against his old club Chelsea in mind.
As well as a dry and bobbly surface, the stop-start game – which had a total of 38 fouls – made for a poor spectacle. However, Mourinho will surely be confident his players can go back to Old Trafford and complete the job next week.
For their goal, Fellaini held off a home defender before feeding Ibrahimovic, whose quick feet allowed him to poke the ball into team-mate Mkhitaryan’s path and the Armenia international struck for the third time in this season’s competition.
Rostov entered the Europa League after finishing third in their Champions League group behind Atletico Madrid and Bayern Munich. In fact, they managed to beat the German champions at home – though that was their only victory from six games.
A team without any household European names, they struggled to impose themselves against far superior opponents in the opening period.