Jose Mourinho has admitted Henrikh Mkhitaryan is yet to regain full fitness after Manchester United's 1-1 Europa League draw against FC Rostov on 9 March.
The Armenian international, who moved to Old Trafford from Borussia Dortmund last summer, gave the Red Devils the lead in the first half. However, his goal was cancelled by Aleksandr Bukharov's 53rd minute strike as that saw the Russian outfit avoid a defeat in the first leg of the round of 16 tie.
Mkhitaryan picked up a hamstring injury in his side's 1-0 win over Saint-Etienne in the Europa League tie in February. He missed the EFL Cup final win over Southampton and the league draw against AFC Bournemouth.
The 28-year-old returned to action against Rostov and was replaced by Anthony Martial after staying on the pitch for 60 minutes. Mourinho was impressed with Mkhitaryan's display and was delighted that the player did not pick up another injury, especially considering the state of the pitch at Stadion Olimp 2.
"We know he cannot play 90 minutes. We knew he would only play 60 minutes — it doesn't matter [what] the result [was], we made that decision together as he is not in the best condition," Mourinho explained, as quoted by United's official website.
"We gave him freedom to play in attacking positions with Zlatan, to try to find spaces to score. He did well and managed to finish the game without injury, which is important for us."
The former Real Madrid and Chelsea manager was also joyful as none of his players suffered any injuries as his side scored the much needed away goal during their trip to Russia. Mourinho expects a tough return leg at Old Trafford on 16 March, but stressed the importance of scoring a goal on Thursday.
"An away goal is always positive; it's better 1-1 than 0-0, obviously. But the game is open, the result is open and this Rostov team has experience of playing big matches, big opponents, big stadiums," the United manager said.
"I don't think it's a problem for them to go to Old Trafford and play us. They play Sunday against Terek Grozny, we play Monday against Chelsea — they know they have more time. It's more difficult but we are one step from the quarter-finals. Old Trafford will push us and hopefully we'll get to the quarter-finals."
United play three matches across all competitions in less than 10 days, starting with a trip to Stamford Bridge to face Chelsea in the FA Cup quarter-final clash on 13 March. It is followed by the Europa League second leg tie against Rostov and a league clash against Middlesbrough.