United remain favourites to progress to the Europa League quarter-finals thanks to Henrikh Mkhitaryan’s away goal in Rostov.
The Armenian put the visitors ahead ten minutes before the break and - although Aleksandr Bukharov equalised - the Reds emerged unscathed on a challenging surface
Four days before the FA Cup quarter-final at Chelsea, there were understandable concerns over the state of the Olimp-2 stadium pitch.
But the Reds delivered a professional away performance, none of the players picked up an injury and - against a side with an indifferent record on the road - will be confident of progress in next week’s second leg.
United lined up in an unfamiliar 3-5-2 system with Ashley Young and Daley Blind as wing-backs to counter Rostov’s own formation.
Paul Pogba miscued from close range early on, but the bobbly pitch and swirling wind contributed to a scrappy encounter of few chances. United went ahead with the one moment of quality in an otherwise disappointing half.
Marouane Fellaini superbly pulled down Phil Jones long cross-field pass and picked out Zlatan Ibrahimovic. The Swede drifted away from his marker and cut the ball back for Mkhitaryan to stroke home from six yards for his third successive European away goal.
Ibrahimovic went close and Young flashed an effort wide after the interval as United threatened to take control of the tie.
But Rostov, who beat Bayern Munich at home in their Champions League campaign, finally came to life.
Like United, the hosts scored from their first real opportunity on 53 minutes. Bukharov latched on to Timofei Kalachev’s nice-weighted through ball to control and blast in beyond Sergio Romero.
Aleksandr Erokhin had a penalty appeal waved away and he then poked wide when well placed shortly afterwards.
Erokhin headed over, Aleksandr Gatskan tested Romero from distance whilst substitute Anthony Martial went close at the other end. Fellaini headed straight at Rostov keeper Nikita Medvedev, and Marcos Rojo’s brilliant lunging challenge thwarted Sardar Azmoun when he threatened to burst clear.
Neither side were able to force a late winner, but Mkhitaryan's important away goal leaves us with the slight advantage ahead of the return leg at Old Trafford.
Overall team performance: 7/10 United Faithful Man of the Match: Marcos Rojo